Stepping over shattered glass in Oakland has become a humdrum matter, and local shop owners are exhausted from maintaining a constant vigilance against retail theft. They were even more fumed after learning that the city of Oakland missed an application deadline to receive state funds to help fight retail crime.
On Thursday, the Board of State and Community Corrections approved the distribution of more than $267 million to local police and sheriff’s departments and district attorney’s offices throughout California to fight organized retail theft. The money will go to create task forces, hire and train staff and purchase new technologies. There were 55 awardees.
… But not Oakland.
Oakland City Administrator Jestin Johnson said that his staff identified the state grant opportunity and put together an application.
“Oakland Police Department and the community partners timely provided their material. Unfortunately, the Economic & Workforce Development Department did not timely complete the submission,” Johnson said. “Obviously, this outcome is unacceptable.”
Regional awards could still benefit city
A joint op-ed statement issued by the Oakland branch of the NAACP, the Chinatown business district and other leaders said: “Oakland residents are getting murdered, carjacked, and attacked in vicious strong-armed robberies … People are afraid to walk the streets, shop or go to restaurants. We need strong, effective leadership. Shame on all who failed to get desperately needed funding when all they had to do was submit the application on time.”
According to the city’s annual crime report, commercial burglary saw a 112 perecent increase between 2021 and 2022.
“Oakland residents are getting murdered, carjacked, and attacked in vicious strong-armed robberies … Shame on all who failed to get desperately needed funding when all they had to do was submit the application on time.”Joint statement from NAACP and Oakland business leaders
“I’ve been here 78 years this December. I’ve never seen the city of Oakland like this,” said Bishop Bob Jackson, senior pastor of Acts Full Gospel Church in East Oakland and one of the statement’s authors. “We need every law enforcement agency that we can get to come into Oakland until we can get a handle on the crime, which is, to me, declaring the city in a state of emergency.”
For many years the city has had a decentralized approach to the grants process, Johnson said. Mayor Sheng Thao and the City Council plan to create a new grants position that will help centralize and streamline the process.
Tracie Cone, who works with the state agency that awarded the grants, noted that Oakland might still benefit from regional awards.
“It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that Alameda County received several grant awards for a regional approach to this important issue,” Cone said.
She pointed out that the Fremont Police Department will receive $2.5 million, and the Newark Police Department will get nearly $1 million. Additionally, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office received an award that will fund targeted prosecutors and investigators to the issue of organized retail theft.
Others ready to put their cash to work
Meanwhile, two other Bay Area cities — Palo Alto and San Ramon — were busy announcing the state grants they are receiving to help combat retail crime.
The Palo Alto Police Department disclosed Thursday it will receive nearly $5.2 million from state coffers that will be used to boost patrols in high-density retail areas like the Stanford Shopping Center and downtown Palo Alto for the next three years, Police Chief Andrew Binder said in a statement.
“Some of these extra patrols will come in the form of undercover operations. Officers will also be able to devote more resources towards combatting auto theft, as organized retail theft suspects often use stolen vehicles while committing their crimes,” Palo Alto police said.
The grant will also allow the department to install new technology that will allow officers to remotely affix a GPS tag to a suspect vehicle, allowing officers to monitor its location if the driver flees from authorities.
“We are grateful for the state’s generous support, and we look forward to using the funds to enhance community safety here in Palo Alto,” Binder said.
Palo Alto police will ask the City Council’s authorization to receive the grant and to proceed with the purchase of the patrol car technology in the coming weeks, officers said.
In San Ramon, the police department announced Friday it had received a $5.6 million state grant that will be used to increase staffing to establish a dedicated team focused on suppressing and preventing organized retail theft.
The grant will provide enhancements to the citywide camera network through additional automated license plate readers and situational cameras. It will also enhance the department’s drone program and establish a drone as a “first responder program,” meant to reduce response times and increase situational awareness for officers as they respond to incidents.
The grant is also meant to increase community engagement to improve educational programs related to organized retail theft prevention throughout the city.
Bay City News staff writers Gabe Agcaoili and Tony Hicks contributed to this story.