CRIME IS SURGING in Oakland because Mayor Sheng Thao fired Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong in February, according to a letter released over the weekend by the Oakland branch of the NAACP.

The organization’s letter points out that the mayor has said she wants to get at the root causes of crime in the city. If Thao wants to do that, NAACP leaders said, she should look in the mirror. 

“Crime has mushroomed since she fired Chief Armstrong,” according to the NAACP’s letter. 

Overall violent crime and crime in general is up in Oakland from this time last year, according to police data. Slayings are down. (Keith Burbank/Bay City News)

Data from the Oakland Police Department shows crime is up 28 percent overall this year compared with the same period last year. Violent crime is up 17 percent while slayings are down 8 percent.  

Thao had no comment Aug. 15 on the letter from the NAACP. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom sent seven California Highway Patrol officers to Oakland recently to help curb crime, but more help is needed, Oakland NAACP President Cynthia Adams said on Aug. 14.

Adams said Newsom’s assistant had called her, but she hasn’t heard anything from the mayor or her office. 

Adams said she would like to meet with the mayor and each City Council member. NAACP leaders may have ideas for solving the surge in crime, she said.  

“This is a crisis,” she said. 

Other data from police shows residential robberies are up 57 percent from this time last year, burglaries are up 44 percent and motor vehicle thefts are up 52 percent. 

“By any measure, it’s terrible,” said Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, the police officers’ union. 

‘Everyone’s being affected’

Both Adams and Donelan said the city needs a plan for curbing crime. 

Donelan wouldn’t comment on the NAACP’s claim that Armstrong’s firing has led to a local surge in crime, saying he hadn’t read the letter.

Adams said Thao should have had a replacement in place for Armstrong when he was fired.

The Police Department is currently being led by interim Chief Darren Allison, who was an assistant chief before Armstrong’s departure. The department presently has 713 sworn officers in its ranks. 

Since his firing, dozens of residents have rallied in support of Armstrong, who Thao dismissed because of his approach to police misconduct.

“We need more police in our district,” said Diana Galbraith, executive director of the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District, an organization that advocates for the neighborhood. 

Galbraith said the biggest problems in her district are property damage and vandalism, including brazen car break-ins, which may stop people from enjoying the restaurants in the neighborhood.  

“It’s beyond frustrating,” Galbraith said. “Everyone’s being affected.” 

She said the Police Department’s community resource officer is dedicated and responsive, but in her opinion, police are underfunded. 

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.