The local chapter of the NAACP is calling on Oakland to declare a state of emergency over crime in the city, which the organization says has gotten so out of control that “everyone is in danger.”
In a letter released on July 27, the NAACP and the Acts Full Gospel Church blamed everyone from the city district attorney to “the movement to defund the police” for contributing to a “heyday for Oakland criminals.”
“We are in crisis and elected leaders must declare a state of emergency and bring resources together from the city, the county, and the state to end the crisis,” the organizations wrote. “We are 500 police officers short of the number that experts say Oakland needs. Our 911 system does not work. Residents now know that help will not come when danger confronts them. Worse, criminals know that too.”
“If there are no consequences for committing crime in Oakland, crime will continue to soar,” they added.
The letter, which was authored by Oakland NAACP President Cynthia Adams and Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church, has made waves among people who regularly argue that crime is reaching crisis levels in San Francisco. But Adams said that people should not confuse the issues: The situation is “totally different in San Francisco,” she said.
According to Adams, crimes like carjackings, robberies, and muggings have left people in Oakland afraid to raise their voices and advocate against crime.
“A lot of people in Oakland are afraid to come out and speak out,” she said. “And we need our city to be safe.”
Although the message calls for more police, Adams said it extends beyond that.
“We talk about love and unity. We need more jobs in Oakland, so our young people can be able to work,” she said. “We have lost three major ports where people could always depend on jobs.”
Serious Challenges, Different Opinions
Oakland’s problems are no secret.
According to Oakland Police Department statistics, the city had already logged 3,370 violent crimes in 2023, an 11% increase over the previous year, as of June 25.
In nearly seven months of 2023, Oakland experienced 52 homicides, the same number as during the entirety of 2022, although still fewer than in 2021. Incidents of rape increased by 16% and robbery by 14% compared to 2022, according to police.
The problem also extends to how the city responds to crimes. Victims of crimes—even violent ones—who call 911 face long wait times to speak with a dispatcher and even longer ones for the police to arrive.
Between 2018 and 2022, the average time it took police to arrive after 911 received a call about a high-priority incident ballooned from 12.7 minutes to 19.1 minutes, more than a 50% increase. Response times for misdemeanors are even longer.
This has led many victims to simply not report crimes.
But not everyone agrees that more policing is the solution to Oakland’s issues.
Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, said she believes the people behind the NAACP and Acts Full letter are from an older generation who are “completely detached from what’s actually happening.”
“I take personal offense at them blaming Defund [the Police],” Brooks said. “It never happened in the city of Oakland. Not even once.”
She believes that the spike in crime is caused by socioeconomic problems that were exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.
“We lost social services, human services, housing services, people lost their jobs,” Brooks said. “If we want to pay for those things, we need to stop giving the Oakland PD half of our budget!”