Oakland businesses decry city leadership's inadequate crime protection

Dozens of businesses in Oakland held a one-day strike to protest crime and city’s response to public safety.

The merchants closed their stores and restaurants to demand more support from local, state, and federal leaders about the crime that has taken over Oakland. Many shared similar stories of having to deal with car break-ins, robberies, and assaults. Some said city officials have not done anything to stop the crime as their stores are repeatedly targeted by criminals.

"I had a group from Miami get robbed at gunpoint on a Saturday afternoon… all their jewelry taken," said Derreck Johnson, owner of Home of Chicken & Waffles.

Nigel Jones said his Jamaican restaurant, Kingston 11, was broken into two weeks ago. He said it was the third time in roughly the past year. He and others joined the strike from 10am to noon and took a brief hit to their bottom line.

"It's ok," Jones said. "We're going to take a bigger hit if the situation is not being dealt with in an effective way."

A media conference in support of the strike was held outside Le Cheval, a longtime Vietnamese restaurant, that will close on Saturday. Owners have said crime was a contributing factor in their decision to close after 38 years.


Almost 11,000 auto thefts in Oakland this year, or 40 per day

With the rise in Oakland’s crime rate a reigning concern for many of the city's residents and businesses, new figures showed that the number of auto thefts have hit an astounding 10,823 so far this year. That’s an average of more than 40 vehicles stolen a day.

Business owners are calling for more resources like an increase of 1,000 Oakland police officers, more support from city, county, state, and federal governments, and for Oakland to declare a state of emergency. It comes as Oakland recently failed to get millions of dollars in state funds to target retail theft because officials missed the deadline to apply.

"We don't want to waste time blaming anybody," said Carl Chan, the former president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. "Today we want to also focus on the solutions and what we can do together to make positive changes."

Business owners in Oakland’s Little Saigon can’t wait much longer. Nolan Wong, owner of International Coin Laundromat, said he and other owners track the daily crime in a WhatsApp thread. So far, they have counted more than 45 incidents in the past 45 days. They are fed up with the armed robberies and assaults in their neighborhood.

"Even though they may get caught, they don't get prosecuted," Wong said. "It's a battle to figure out how we get in touch with these criminals to get them to stop."

Chan said the merchants plan on signing a letter and sending it to Governor Gavin Newsom, asking for funding and more law enforcement support in Oakland.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao did not respond to KTVU’s request for comment. She released a statement prior to Tuesday’s one-day strike, which read in part:

"We welcomed the opportunity to meet with any business owner that wants to work on collective safety solutions alongside our office… I have been personally meeting with dozens of small business groups to fund and support initiatives that deter crime and promote safe streets."