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Newsom says Oakland crime down 33%, 97% of car break-ins not included in report

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(The Center Square) – As California Governor Newsom celebrated a 33% decline in reported crime in Oakland, a NBC Bay Area investigation found 97% of Oakland car-break ins were reported but not included in the department’s crime statistics, suggesting crime may be “down” due to data discrepancies, not real decreases.

In May 2024, Oakland Police Department announced a 33% decrease in year-over-year crime, leading NBC Bay Area to investigate “troubling undercounts” in full crime reporting. In one month where OPD said there were 30 break-ins, their analysis of OPD’s CrimeWatch database found 30 break-ins per day, leading them to conclude “weekly reports fell 97% short of the real count.” This database does not include unreported crime, which means real crime statistics are likely even worse.

In 2023, Oakland violent crime was up 21%, robbery up 38%, burglary up 23%, and motor vehicle theft up 45% compared to 2022, leading the area’s largest private employer, Kaiser Permanente, to order its workers not to leave its downtown office building for lunch. One week earlier, In-N-Out announced it would be closing its profitable Oakland location — its first permanent store closure — due to unrelenting crime against employees and customers.

In response, The Oakland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People demanded that city leaders declare a state of emergency on crime, end defunding of police, and prosecute more people who commit crimes.

“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,” wrote the Oakland NAACP to Oakland city officials. “Our 911 system does not work. Residents now know that help will not come when danger confronts them.”

In February, Newsom ordered 120 California Highway Patrol officers to crack down on crime in Oakland, where the city’s police department has been without a police chief for a year. Oakland has 711 officers for its 441,000 residents, or 1.6 police per thousand residents. For comparison, New York City has 33,695 officers for its 8.8 million residents, or 3.8 police per thousand residents, suggesting Oakland has a very small police force for its population.

Of Oakland’s reported 33% decrease in crime from January 1 to April 28 of 2024 compared to the same time in 2023, most of the decrease was from was from 50% decreases in reported larceny (3,300 to 1,636) and burglary (6,026 to 3,013), and a 12% decrease in motor vehicle theft (4,560 to 4,027). Meanwhile, robberies, which differ from larceny and burglary in that force or threats are used to take property, were up 11%, from 949 to 1,050. With so few police and prosecutors, it’s likely individuals may be more likely to report robbery, which is a felony carrying potential prison time, than they are to report larceny and burglary, which, when under $950 in resale value, is a misdemeanor in California and unlikely to be prosecuted, let alone reported and investigated.

The governor’s CHP intervention has had a major focus on stolen cars, leading to 887 recoveries since February, suggesting the reduction in motor vehicle theft — which tends to be reported so individuals can collect insurance payouts to replace their vehicles — is more accurate.

When looking only at violent crime, Oakland’s crime data looks starkly different: while homicides declined by five, aggravated assault by 68, rape by 16, and arson by six cases year-over-year for the first four months of 2024, including the 101 case increase in robbery means violent crime still increased overall. As earlier interviews with business leaders attest, the cumulative decrease in reported crime is likely from individuals giving up on reporting theft.

Noting that reported murder, rape, and robbery have increased by more than 20% and burglaries have dropped 30% since California passed Prop. 47, which made thefts under $950 and many drug crimes unprosecuted misdemeanors, Matt Ross, Communications Director for Californians Against Retail & Residential Theft told The Center Square, “Either California is doing an amazing job at stopping burglary when every other crime stat is on the increase, or there is underreporting.”

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