Oakland crime gets Gov. Newsom's attention

Gov. Gavin Newsom made an impromptu stop on Thursday in Oakland to help Caltrans clean up trash off I-880, which is part of his "Clean California" initiative to get trash off roadways and public spaces. 

The elected officials and leaders helping with the clean-up drew a connection between issues of blight and crime.

Crime in Oakland has been a major focus of the governor’s energies this week. 

Also onThursday, he announced the state is sending attorneys from the state’s Department of Justice and California National Guard to help prosecute crimes in Oakland and the East Bay. 

The move comes two days after he deployed 120 more CHP officers into the area targeting theft and violent crime. 

"I'm particularly focused on vehicle theft, vehicle break-ins, that’s unacceptable," Newsom said. "Retailers that have their windows smashed, over-and-over again, that’s unacceptable."

He added that he is tired of the headlines that read: "Denny’s leaving, In-N-Out leaving."

The governor’s office pointed to early statistics from Oakland in 2023 showing violent crime up 21%, robbery increasing 38% and vehicle theft increasing 45%. 

That's while other parts of the state have seen decreases. 

Residents and business owners have expressed frustration with city leaders over crime. 

"How about common sense? Not tougher on crime, it’s keeping people safe," said Newsom. "People can’t live feeling terrorized that their car’s been broken into five, six times, can’t live like that. Can’t expect a small businessperson to put everything on the line, invest in Oakland if they feel like their place is going to be robbed."

Newsom said he’s not interested in pointing fingers. 

"I’ve got 10 fingers, none of them are pointed in any direction," said Newsom. "All of us are in this together, I’m not interested in who’s to blame. I want to solve this problem. We can make a point or we can make a difference. I want to make a difference."

The Anti Police-Terror Project condemned the move to bring more CHP officers to Oakland, writing in part: "Oakland has failed to adequately fund the community-based violence interruption strategies that have been proven to work across California and the country."

Newsom countered that he has made investments in community programs specific to Oakland, including clean-up efforts.

 "I want accountability, and I want community building at the same time," said Newsom. " I’m not interested in the old binaries of the past."

The governor has called for new legislation to crack down on property crime, but has stood by Proposition 47, the decade-old law that changed some non-violent property crimes where the value does not exceed $950 to misdemeanors. 

His support stands despite criticism from Republicans and now some in his own party, like San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, calling for reforms to the law. 

"When you assert something, you have to back it up," said Newsom. "And the challenge right now is a lot of people are pointing fingers without understanding those facts. The fact remains, we can improve how we prosecute organized retail theft. That’s something we’re advancing."