Oakland Mayor hosts 'Town Talks' event, utilizes young people to get community input amid a spike in crime

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao kicked off her ‘Talking Transition’ program Saturday morning with a canvassing effort led by young people. 

The city's goal is to get 5,000 Oakland residents to share their ideas on how to improve housing and homelessness, community safety, and economic opportunity through an online survey

The city is paying young people ages 16 to 25 to conduct those surveys in person.

"The people are ready to talk, the people are ready to be heard, it’s bubbling. Like you can feel it," said Jerry Law, one of the community members helping to canvas. 

This is the first of two canvassing events focusing on the city's west and east sides.

"We are investing in Oakland's future, in our next generation of leaders. We are tapping into the voices that are constantly under-heard and underserved," said Mayor Sheng Thao.  "How can we make community feel safe again, so they can walk the streets, they can come out and spend time in the downtown corridor or at storefronts? The data we collect is really going to shape our mandate as we move forward in this administration."

But some see the survey as a waste of time, blaming Thao for the city's issues. 

"If you drive down Oakland, you see the answers. You see people dying, you see dirty Oakland, you see business leaving. So you don’t need a survey. All you gotta do is look at Oakland," said Pastor Fabian Robinson.

Robinson said he's never seen Oakland worse than it is right now. He wants to see the city be tough on crime. 

"People can run lights, people can kill people, people can do sideshows and the police just watch," Robinson said. 

Today's event, dubbed "Town Talks," comes after the City of Oakland missed a deadline for state funds that could have been used to combat retail theft citywide. 

It also comes amid a 17% increase in overall crime, according to recent Oakland police data

Compared to this time last year, aggravated assaults are up 11%, robberies are up 25%, burglaries are up 44% and motor vehicle thefts are up 52%.

Thao argues that the spike in crime has snowballed over decades, and changes won't happen overnight. 

"I wish the solution could be implemented, and we could feel the relief immediately. I live here, I’m a victim of violence, my son, you know my home was broken into, and they saw my son inside the home, and they just kept going. It has traumatized my son, I get that, I understand that," Thao said. 

She pointed to some of the changes she's made, including bringing back foot patrol and traffic enforcement officers. She has also secured six California Highway Patrol officers and one sergeant to help, and $1.2 million to fund 300 citywide cameras.


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