OAKLAND, Calif. - The Oakland NAACP has called on city leaders to declare a state of emergency due to rising crime, calling the situation a "crisis," and has urged residents across the city to speak out against it.
The group, alongside Bishop Bob Jackson of the Acts Full Gospel Church, issued the statement on Thursday, blasting both city and county officials, as well as social justice movements.
"Failed leadership, including the movement to defund the police, our District Attorney’s unwillingness to charge and prosecute people who murder and commit life-threatening serious crimes, and the proliferation of anti-police rhetoric have created a heyday for Oakland criminals," the letter states.
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It goes on to say residents are afraid to leave their homes, go to work, or enjoy recreational activities throughout the City of Oakland. It highlights a number of recent high profile incidents in which women were targeted by "young mobs," residents of Asian descent were robbed in Chinatown, street vendors being robbed, and even news crews having their cameras stolen.
"African Americans are disproportionately hit the hardest by crime in East Oakland and other parts of the city," the letter states. "But residents from all parts of the city report that they do not feel safe."
The Alameda County District Attorney's office responded to the letter in a statement that said, "We are disappointed that a great African-American pastor and a great African-American organization would take a false narrative on such an important matter."
The Oakland NAACP received support from the president of the NAACP California Hawaii State Conference.
"The NAACP California Hawaii State Conference stands by and doubles down on NAACP Oakland Branch’s request for a call for a state of emergency in the city of Oakland," said President Rick Callender. "Crime is at an all time high in Oakland and we are calling on the mayor to step up and work with the Oakland Branch to address this critical issue and call for a state of emergency."
The letter’s release by the Oakland NAACP came on the same day when dozens of Oakland residents packed a community meeting on public safety and demanded District Attorney Pamela Price and members of the Oakland Police Department do something to address what many see as out-of-control crime.
Councilmember Dan Kalb who attended the meeting said on Friday there needs to be a comprehensive approach to address increasing crime, record calls and a police staffing shortage.
"Criminal investigations of serious crimes and our Ceasefire program to prevent violence – those are high priorities, and we should not cut staffing in those two areas," he said.
Kalb supports deploying California Highway Patrol officers or adding more FBI agents to investigate Oakland violent crimes. He, like many, wants to reduce recidivism.
"What are the options for consequences even if we can't have a full on prosection?" Kalb said. "Even if we don't want to send juveniles away for a long time, what are we going to do instead of that, opposed to doing nothing."
The letter from the Oakland NAACP added that rising crime has contributed to people moving out of the city and the shuttering of many businesses.
The NAACP and Bishop Jackson call for more police officers being hired, quality education and mentorship for Oakland’s youth, and reinvestment in blue collar jobs.
"Oakland should focus on creating skilled industrial and logistics jobs that pay family sustaining wages, and vocational training so Oakland residents can perform those jobs," the letter states. "Unfortunately, progressive policies and failed leadership have chased away or delayed significant blue collar job development in the city, the Port of Oakland, and the former Army Base. That must change!"
The letter finishes by urging members of the Black community to speak out and demand change to improve public safety across Oakland. It also calls for White, Asian and Latino residents to speak out "and stop allowing themselves to be shamed into silence."
"There is nothing compassionate or progressive about allowing criminal behavior to fester and rob Oakland residents of their basic rights to public safety," the letter states. "It is not racist or unkind to want to be safe from crime."
Read the full statement from the NAACP below: