OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Residents and businesses in Oakland’s Chinatown say their neighborhood is under siege from increasingly violent robberies, but the response has turned into a showdown over police resources as the city faces a massive budget deficit.
Videos have surfaced of women having their wallets snatched inside stores and fights with robbers on the sidewalk have people scared.READ MORE: Lake County Luxury Hotel, Housing Project Raises Concerns Over Wildfire Risk
Community leaders, along with police and city leaders and community members spoke out about the violence Wednesday, including one traumatized woman who had been robbed and shot in the head with a flare gun last month.
“Yes, they appear to be more violent, for whatever reason,” said Oakland Police Capt. Bobby Hookfin, the area commander for Chinatown. “And that’s why we need to stop this now, before something even more heinous occurs.”
Chinatown merchants are begging for more police patrols, which area Councilmember Nikki Fortunato-Bas seemed to support.
“The relationships that we have with our walking officers and our community resource officers really helps to create the foundation of a safe community,” Fortunato-Bas said.
But at the news conference, Mayor Libby Schaaf publicly called out Fortunato-Bas for partnering with Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan in trying to slash the police budget following the Black Lives Matter protests.READ MORE: Theft Leaves San Jose Couple Bereft: 'We’re Heartbroken, All Our Precious Things Are Gone'
“I have not forgotten that this last summer they brought a proposal to cut $25 million from the Oakland Police Department as a political statement, not because of operational or financial needs,” Schaaf said. “If that proposal had passed, those walking officers would have been gone long ago.”
The police said they will reallocate resources to the area, but facing a city budget deficit of $62 million, no one seems to know where that might come from.
Hookfin said he will maintain the officers currently assigned to Chinatown but funding cuts are eliminating the police overtime that would normally be used to add extra patrols to an area of concern.
Desperate times often produce desperate measures and Chiu Szeto, a residents’ group board member, is advocating neighborhood watch patrols, even if they are armed.
“We need to form our neighborhood watch, whether it’s armed or not armed,” Szeto said.MORE NEWS: Indoor Restaurant Dining Resumes, Movie Theaters Reopen in SF and Santa Clara Counties
When asked if he preferred an armed patrol, he said, “Yes, because the only thing the bad guy respects is when you have a gun.”