Sheng Thao says public safety a top priority when sworn in as Oakland mayor
OAKLAND, Calif. - When Sheng Thao is sworn in as Oakland’s next mayor early next year, she will face major challenges, like a homeless and housing crisis and an uncertain economy. But topping her list of priorities will be taking on the city’s gun violence epidemic, Thao said Wednesday.
The mayor-elect outlined her strategy from addressing the city’s recent crime wave that included hiring more officers and doubling down on efforts to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals.
"We must fill the vacancies in our police department with experienced and diverse home-grown officers," Thao said at a morning press conference on the steps of City Hall.
While she ran as a progressive, Thao is not calling for defunding police like many of her progressive allies once did. She said she will work closely with law enforcement partners around the region and expand violence prevention efforts like Ceasefire.
As of Wednesday, Oakland had 111 homicides, a dip from the same period in 2021 when there were 124 killings.
Oakland police officials said the decrease is in part due to a recent all-hands approach to combating crime.
"We’ve seen decreases in our homicides, a 26% decrease in our shootings, a decrease in our robberies. and a significant downward trend in our carjackings," Oakland police Assistant Chief Darren Allison said.
But the year-over-year downturn in violence comes amid the worst spike in crime in a decade. It comes as little consolation to communities still under siege.
"I’m hoping that she will stand by her campaign promise to make public safety the No. 1 issue because it is the no. 1 issue for the people of Oakland," Bishop Bob Jackson with Acts Full Gospel Church of Christ in East Oakland. He said he hopes the new mayor does more than previous admiration to address violence.
Mayor Libby Schaaf supported councilman Loren Taylor for mayor but on Wednesday said it was "time to come together behind our new Mayor Sheng Thao."
She hopes Thao will continue to push to hire more officers
"I believe Mayor Thao has heard loud and clear form her constitutions that that’s what Oaklanders want and I trust that’s a promise she will keep," Schaaf said.
Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky