Oakland Mayor Thao delivers 1st State of the City Address with focus on safety, fighting crime

"Community safety remains and is my top priority as your mayor," she said.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Oakland mayor delivers 1st State of the City Address with crime focus
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao gave her first State of the City Address on Tuesday saying "community safety remains and is my top priority as your mayor."

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao gave her first State of the City Address on Tuesday, saying, "Community safety remains and is my top priority as your mayor."

Oakland's 38-year-old mayor delivered a 45-minute peek into her plans for dealing with the rampant crime that is driving away businesses and paralyzing neighborhoods.

INTERACTIVE: Take a look at the ABC7 Neighborhood Safety Tracker

"The surge in crime and violence that we are seeing in our streets is totally and completely unacceptable," she said.

"We know that the sharp increase in property crimes and auto burglaries are tied to organized groups with sophisticated tactics and networks. That's why I am committed to increasing the number of police officers on our streets with a strong preference for diverse, homegrown officers that know our community."

FULL VIDEO: Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao delivers 1st State of the City Address

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao gave her first State of the City Address as she faces a dwindling budget, no permanent police chief and a damaging crime reputation.

But she made no mention homegrown Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, who she fired back in February and was later exonerated by an independent investigation. He's now one of seven candidates she could hire as chief.

A former police commissioner Mayor Thao fired in June, Brenda Harbin-Forte, spoke outside City Hall at a press conference for Neighbors Together Oakland.

"Mayor Sheng Thao is the most incompetent mayor I have seen in the 53 years since my family moved to Oakland. She does nothing for our city, crime is rising," she said.

The mayor pledged to focus on bolstering the 911 system and installing 300 new license plate readers.

"In the months ahead, we will double down on our community safety commitments to get more officers on our streets, prevent and solve more crimes, and improve our response times," the mayor said.

MORE: Ex-Oakland PD chief explains what led up to his firing after audit disputes prior accusations

Big promises in a city where there have been 103 homicides so far this year and vehicle thefts are up over 50% in the past year.

Mayor Thao also addressed safety and plans to hire more Oakland police officers hoping to improve graduation rates from the police academy to help tackle crime.

"I've had my house broken into while my son was home, and I too felt scared," she said. "You may be struggling to make ends meet and I get it. I have both faced many of the same struggles throughout much of the majority of my life. And at the top of this address, I want to say very clearly that community safety remains and is my top priority as your mayor."

She plans to have more police on foot patrol. She also addressed having community ambassadors on business corridors.

MORE: Search for Oakland police chief officially includes LeRonne Armstrong

Oakland Police Commission has sent a list of the top candidates for police chief to city leaders - and one of them is former Chief LeRonne Armstrong.

Many residents and business owners have been victims of crime this year. Some say they feel city leadership is failing them, and they are demanding change.

"They took the safe out of the floor," said Monique Ramos, an Oakland store owner who says her store has been hit eight times this year. "While we waited for police, they were out robbing every other store in the area."

Other residents say they don't feel safe in Oakland anymore.

"People driving down the streets have been robbed at gunpoint," said Ali Mohammed, another store owner. "My store has been hit and it feels like there is no accountability for all of it."

VIDEO: Oakland merchants react to Mayor Thao's State of the City Address

Oakland business owners react to Mayor Sheng Thao's first State of the City Address focused on crime and community safety.

Residents say even if you call 911, police don't come until hours later.

"My window got smashed one night," said resident Lori Beltran. "Called police at 3 in the morning, and they don't show up 'til 9."

Crime victims say they support Mayor Thao's idea to add more police officers but need to see it implemented immediately.

"If she doesn't have a strategy to do something right now, then I don't think it is going to help," Mohammed said.

RELATED: Oakland councilmember calls for more help from FBI during public safety meeting

ABC7 News reporters Ryan Curry, Leslie Brinkley, and Lena Howland contributed to this report.

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