Oakland police chief visits ransacked gas station, promises improvements

About a week after an Oakland gas station was raided by a mob of people overnight, Oakland's new police chief met Wednesday with its owner and other small businesses on Wednesday afternoon. 

The chaos was captured in a now-viral surveillance video. 

It was a 40-minute free-for-all that showed dozens of people stealing everything they could get their hands on, including $25,000 in cash from the register.

Owner and manager Sam Mardaie said police took nine hours to respond.  

Oakland Police Chief Floyd Mitchell spoke to the media after they met at the gas station. 

"As a business owner, he should not have to go through what we saw on the video here, and we're going to do everything we can to help him in the future to keep this from happening again," said Mitchell. 

He said he will look at whether officers are efficiently deployed in the Hegenberger corridor, which has seen major businesses like In-N-Out and Denny's close over high crime concerns this year.

"We know that the city of Oakland is facing some major financial issues that affect our staffing. I'm not talking about staffing, I'm talking about deployment," Mitchell said. 

Oakland police said the night of the robbery, officers were responding to a sideshow nearby with more than 100 cars at the scene.

When Mardaie initially called the police, he was told to file a report online, because the suspects were no longer on the scene. 

Officers later raised the case's priority after seeing this video.

"He ensured us that things will change, but there are things that we can correct from our end - the way we respond to a crime, how we talk to the police department to make it a priority," said Mardaie. "It takes time for change, so we're going to give the benefit of the doubt to the chief, to give him some space to do the improvements."  

Mardaie said he was grateful for the chief's in-person visit, concern and commitment to improving public safety. 

The chief said the department would do its best to be better partners with the community. 

Alan Liang, who owns nearby restaurant Hegenburger, was also included in the conversation.

"We're trying to stay optimistic for the community and having our new police chief on board, and it was very nice meeting him... small business owners are still trying to survive here, despite what's going on with the crimes," he said. "Very thankful to hear that our new police chief will deter crimes."

Councilmember Treva Reid, who also visited with small business owners alongside the chief, said her district, which includes the Hegenberger area, has the city's highest number of shootings and homicides in Oakland.  

The business corridor also generates the highest sales tax revenue in the city.

"I have received the support from the city administrator, I have received that support from OPD. OPD and I are lock-in-step with the strategies and the solutions that we are working to build on, along with the Department of Violence Prevention and CHP and Alameda County Sheriff," said Reid.  

As far as Mayor Sheng Thao prioritizing her district's demands, she added: "I have not seen the support that we have asked for."

Reid said she has seen every level of leadership, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, working with her on the ground to improve public safety.

Mardaie added that though this stunning crime was captured on video, there are crimes that happen every day that are not. He says thieves target victims daily, as they fill up their rental cars, before returning them near the airport.  

Ultimately, he's worried visitors who become victims won't want to return to the city of Oakland.  


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