Oakland’s Chinatown community calls for more vigilance after spike in crime

Oakland’s Chinatown has seen an uptick in crime over the last several weeks, which has members of the community calling on local leaders and police to make changes to reverse the trend.

"We also have many juveniles driving around Chinatown and carrying guns, so they’re also hurting people before they’re being robbed," said Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

Flanked by city leaders such as Nikki Fortunato Bass, whose district includes the Chinatown neighborhood, and Mayor Libby Schaaf, Chan in a press conference  on Wednesday spoke about the recent spike in crime. 

In one incident that took place on January 29, a thief was seen on surveillance video snatching money out of the hands of customers at a store along the 300 block of 9th Street.

Oakland Police announced late Wednesday that the suspect in the case is Deveion Byrd of Vallejo.

They said the 23-year-old was caught after committing another crime. In that incident he attempted to snatch a purse on Feb.1. Members of the community waited at the scene for police to arrive and Bryd was later arrested on suspicion of committing the crime.

In another violent attack that took place in the neighborhood on Jan. 5, a woman was shot in the head with a flare gun.

She attended the briefing hosted by Chan to share her experience and get the word out about the uptick in crime.

"She continues to be concerned about her personal safety and the safety of the community and others here in Chinatown. She's concerned that Oakland’s Chinatown is becoming not as safe as it was in the past. In fact, becoming unsafe and that makes her sad," said a man who spoke on the woman's behalf.

The crime spike is another setback for the Oakland Chinatown district that has been hit hard by the COVID19 pandemic. Customers vanished amid the stay-at-home order and anti-Asian racism.

"The intentional targeting of Asian merchants and residents is abhorrent and we will do everything within our power and resources to put an end to it," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Chan asked local leaders and police for a return of police foot patrol in the area as well as the installation of surveillance cameras that were previously approved for the Chinatown. He said the cameras could be used to solve crime and deter criminal activity.

Oakland Police Captain Bobby Hookfin, who oversees the area said among the immediate changes that he’s enacted to help stem the tide of violent crime is reallocating personnel. He also made a plea to victims who don’t report crimes out of fear of retaliation.

"Even if you have little information, even if you cannot describe your assailant please come forward because that little bit may help us solve a bigger crime," Hookfin said.