OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce President Carl Chan asked Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday to deploy California Highway Patrol officers to the city’s troubled streets and declare a local state of emergency in an attempt to stem the rapidly rising tide of brazen robberies and violent assaults.

Chan and other officials spoke at a press event late Tuesday morning that called for additional measures in Oakland to curb crime, including the deployment of more law enforcement officers and installation of more surveillance cameras.

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“Governor Newsom, we want you to declare a state of emergency for the city of Oakland. We want you to bring in the California Highway Patrol,” said Chan of a letter he sent to Newsom demanding action. “I’m not only asking you for Chinatown. I’m asking you to send the police, the CHP, to the city of Oakland; all areas. We need your help.”

Chan called for more law enforcement on the streets, especially with Oakland Police Department budget cuts reducing the number of new officers being trained in academies held by OPD.

Oakland and the city’s Chinatown district has been hit hard by violent crime this year, with — according to Chan — 77 homicides happening in Oakland so far in 2021. In addition to the homicides plaguing the city, residents in Oakland’s Chinatown — particularly older residents — have been repeatedly targeted in violent strong-arm robberies.

“The rash of shootings, carjacking, assaults and robberies hold the city of Oakland hostage,” said Chan. “Citizens are living in the continuous state of fear for our safety, well being, livelihoods and future.”

Chan blamed the rise in violent crimes on the “defund the police” movement in part, but also noted that those committing the crimes were less concerned about consequences because the state’s justice system and unnamed district attorneys that he said are too lenient with repeat offenders.

When Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong spoke with KPIX Tuesday, he agreed with Chan’s comments and acknowledged that his department is stretched thing.

“Well, I think they’re right in the sense that this department needs more resources and more help,” Armstrong admitted.

Armstrong says his department is already accepting help from the ATF and the FBI to clear open cases, but he repeated what he has said in the past: that his force is overwhelmed.

Oakland City Councilmember Loren Taylor also seemed to acknowledge the limitations the police department is dealing with when he spoke at the Chinatown event Tuesday.

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“I also hear the voices of deep East Oakland residents when they tell me that the long response time for 911 is not acceptable; that it doesn’t give them confidence that the system — the government — will look out for them and protect them in their time of need,” Taylor said.

The councilmember went on to say that violence prevention strategies may provide long-term solutions, but given the current increase in violence, immediate answers are needed as well.

For his part, Armstrong said he would make more adjustments to try to cover the alarming increase in crime.

“So, as the chief, we will continue to deploy every resource that we have available,” he said. “We will continue to move resources around in order to address the spikes in crime. But we are facing challenging times in
the city of Oakland.”

While he appeared at the press event Councilmember Taylor acknowledged he did not sign Chan’s letter requesting help from the state. When contacted, the office of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said that they were sympathetic to Chan’s expressed concerns about crime, but stopped short of endorsing the letter.

On Monday, the Oakland Police Department confirmed it was investigating seven shootings including two homicides that happened over the weekend as well as more than a dozen robberies citywide. OPD said investigators are seeing an alarming trend in robberies where suspects were targeting victims carrying backpacks, purses, computer bags and electronic devices.

One of those robberies and shootings happened Saturday afternoon in broad daylight near the corner of Eighth and Franklin, which is one of Chinatown’s busiest shopping areas.

The robbery– which was captured on a nearby surveillance camera — began when a pair of men hopped out of a car to grab the purses of two women on the sidewalk.

Two young men intervened and began struggling with the attackers before the assailants pulled out guns. Two shots were fired and one young man fell to the ground as the struggle continued. Both suspects then jumped back into their car and drove off.

The gunshot victim was shot twice — in the shoulder and thigh — and is lucky to be alive. In an interview Monday, the Good Samaritan who jumped into the fray and was shot said he would “do it again.”

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Oakland has already enlisted help from the federal government to address the spike in crime. Late last month, the FBI announced it would be getting involved in the fight to crack down on in crime in Oakland’s Chinatown.