How Oakland's mayor, police department plan to prevent crimes involving young people in city

Chief Allison said two weeks ago, the city saw 100 robberies in one week.

ByAmanda del Castillo and Ryan Curry, Lena Howland KGO logo
Thursday, May 25, 2023
How Oakland plans to prevent crimes involving young people
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and police addressed a recent spike in robberies and their plan to combat those crimes involving young suspects.

OAKLAND, Calif (KGO) -- Multiple young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have been arrested in connection to nearly three dozen robberies in and around Oakland. The announcement came from the city's mayor and acting police chief, and was addressed during a Wednesday morning press conference.

Eight of the nine young suspects are Oakland residents themselves. Six boys and three girls are all suspected to be tied to at least 35 robberies.

RELATED: 9 kids, ranging from ages 12 to 17, arrested in connection with 35 robberies across Oakland: Police

"I want to be very clear that this is to send a strong message that if you are thinking to commit crimes in the City of Oakland, that you will be caught," Mayor Sheng Thao told reporters.

Mayor Thao and acting Police Chief Darren Allison addressed the development which comes as the department is investigating a number of robberies by crews of suspects.

Chief Allison said two weeks ago, the city saw 100 robberies in one week. He said these incidents involved carjackings, shootings and other assaults.

To date, he said the surge in these types of crimes has caused a 7% increase in robberies over the same time last year.

"Since last week, when we began our focused effort to address street robberies, our officers have arrested a total of 20 individuals and recovered three firearms for various crimes," he added. "Of those 20, six were adults and 14 were juveniles."

MORE: Car break-ins force Raising Cane's to close Oakland dining room

Chief Allison said the city is seeing a trend of the increased involvement of young people. This is the reason why the city is promising reinvestment into its foot and traffic patrols, revisiting partnerships with other agencies, and committing to resources for young people.

"These are our babies," Kentrell Killens, Oakland's Interim Chief of Violence Prevention said. "These are our children and they deserve a chance to get things together. They deserve a chance to have a level of support to help them turn things around."

Regarding the nine most recent arrests, the six boys and three girls between the ages of 12 and 17 are suspected of crimes across more than a dozen neighborhoods, including Rockridge, Grand Lake, Adams Point, Fruitvale, Temescal, Uptown, Bella Vista, Longfellow, Ivy Hill, Mosswood, Trestle Glen, Acorn, Northgate and Chinatown.

In addition to the cities of Piedmont and El Cerrito.

Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb is requesting police to patrol the Rockridge neighborhood.

"Over the past few months there has been a dramatic increase in violent crime," Kalb said. "Violent robberies in many neighborhoods."

VIDEO: Oakland city official asks for more police presence in Rockridge neighborhood

"Over the past few months there has been a dramatic increase in violent crime," Kalb said. "Violent robberies in many neighborhoods."

He says many of those teens assaulted and robbed people in the Rockridge district. He is asking for the Oakland Police Department to patrol his district - something they say they plan to do.

Although police arrested nine children suspected of these robberies, Kalb says police could be searching for more. He says having a physical police presence should make people feel safer.

"It is the small business owners and residents we are trying to protect here," he said. "Walking officers, to be more visible more present to deter the crime in the first place, and when crimes do happen, investigate them in a thorough fashion and take them off the street."

He says youth who commit crimes need to be held accountable. He says that includes the possibility of youth going to juvenile hall.

MORE: 15-month-old injured after gun discharges during attempted robbery in Oakland, police say

"Whatever we can do to move them away from the world of crime in the future we need to do," Councilmember Kalb said. "For some that might involve some incarceration for others, it could include programs or probation for programs they are required to attend. That is for a judge to decide."

On Wednesday morning, Mayor Thao stood behind what she calls the city's new comprehensive approach to public safety. Still, she reassured those who commit such crimes will not go without consequences.

"We also must make sure that there's justice and we also know that it is not okay for you to come to Oakland and commit crimes," she said.

The mayor did not take many questions. However, ABC7 News has asked about specifics surrounding the city's comprehensive plan and will be sure to update viewers once we hear back.

We've also reached out to the Alameda County District Attorney's office about what charges the nine will be facing.

How Oakland's budget plays role in crime prevention

"Instead of reigning in police spending, the city is considering defunding vital services for violence prevention, jobs, shelter for the unhoused."

With a little more than a month left to finalize the City of Oakland's budget, facing a $360 million deficit, an organization called the Oakland People's Budget Coalition says not so fast.

"Instead of reining in police spending, the city is considering defunding vital services for violence prevention, jobs, shelter for the unhoused, arts and more," Damion Scott, a member of the coalition and organizer for the East Bay Housing Organizations said.

This comes just one day after nine teenagers between the ages of 12 to 17 were arrested in connection to 35 robberies across the area.

"There's definitely a knee-jerk reaction when there are incidents of violence to think and to advocate for more policing and more surveillance," Frankie Free Ramos, a spokesperson for Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) said. "That does not keep us safe."

Ramos says the city's Department of Violence Prevention would need to cut 26 percent of its programs, meaning it would directly impact community-based organizations such as hers.

INTERACTIVE: Take a look at the ABC7 Neighborhood Safety Tracker

"We know when we work with these young people that what they need is stability, they need places that they feel safe, they need good paying jobs, they need to see a future for themselves and what they see instead is schools being shut down, budget cuts to the programs that they rely on," she said.

Scott says there are also concerns about less funding for affordable housing construction.

"Having more police won't get people off the street, we can shuffle people around but that won't get them housed," Scott said.

And he wants to make sure the Housing and Community Development Department is fully staffed.

"We know that underfunding housing makes us unsafe, makes everybody unsafe, we need to make sure that people have an affordable place to live because that's the way we can ensure that people are safe," he said.

Mayor Thao says in her proposed budget, she plans on restructuring public safety departments, with room for six police academies, which will increase the police force from around 700 to 730 sworn officers over the next two years.

"We are not going to allow for our residents and our businesses to feel unsafe in our communities to walk to the grocery store, to walk to their vehicles," Mayor Thao said.

The Oakland City Council has until June 30 to approve the budget.

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