OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Citing gunshots fired twice at officers over the weekend, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne L. Armstrong voiced concerns Tuesday over the firepower being displayed by ‘violent robbery caravans’ that were committing crimes in the East Bay city.
At the start of his news conference, Armstrong held a two-minute moment of silence for the 127 homicide victims in Oakland this year, including the fatal shootings of news crew security guard Kevin Nashita last week and the weekend slaying of Eric Davis, a man who was attempting to stop a vehicle burglary near Lake Merritt.READ MORE: Thieves Target License Plates in San Francisco; Rack Up Parking Tickets
The city has also been plagued by smash-and-grab retail theft mobs, armed robberies at pot dispensaries, shootings and illegal sideshows that have been frequently marked by gunfire.
Over the weekend, Armstrong deployed heavily armed tactical teams to four quadrants of the city to counter the firepower of the robbery caravans.
“Last weekend, we staffed extra teams to be out in the community and address these violent robbery caravans,” he said. “A tactical response is what I deployed. What I did was divide up our tactical team to put our specially trained officers throughout the city in four quadrants to make sure we had a quick response to those who would seek to come to Oakland and use caravans of vehicles, armed suspects, to rob businesses.”
“We were prepared and we will be prepared moving forward,” he added.
Of particular concern, Armstrong said, was the weaponry these caravans were bringing with them.
“What I was concerned about was the amount of firepower that we continue to be confronted with every time these caravans come into Oakland and our patrol officers having to drive into those situations and actually putting officers lives at risk,” he said. “We had two shootings at police officers over the last weekend and I have some serious concerns that when officers are responding to these caravans they are being met with gunfire.”
Armstrong called the Davis fatal shooting just the latest tragedy in the city.
“This homicide occurred as Mr. Davis was following a group involved in car burglaries,” the chief said. “This is a tragic situation.”
The suspect vehicle in the Davis homicide was described as Toyota Rav4, four door, black with a rear passenger window shot out.
Armstrong many of the crimes were being committed by suspects from outside the area.
“What we have seen over and over is a group of individuals that sometimes are not even from Oakland come and commit multiple burglaries,” the chief said. “As high as 39 burglaries in one hour. Going from car to car, breaking into cars.”
When asked about the coordination of the retail theft crimes, Armstrong said social media was being used.
“Well, we know that the use of social media is how they’re coordinated,” he said. “We know that some of our groups and gangs that we’ve identified in the city of Oakland are participating in these armed caravans of robbers. And we know that they are coming from outside of Oakland as well. We’ve seen individuals and then arrested from Vallejo and Fairfield and up to Stockton.”READ MORE: Fans Remember Betty White With Challenge To Fund Animal Shelters
Aside from the tactical officers, Oakland was also put into place other strategies to combat the crime surge.
“We are going to make some policy changes just to allow our officers to have more latitude when it comes to the apprehension of those involved in these crimes,” Armstrong said. “We’re also going to be working with other departments in the city of Oakland like public works to ask for barriers to be put out in certain areas of the city — certain locations that we believe we can cut off and deny vehicular traffic to so that we can prevent these loads from coming in with vehicles and using those vehicles to escape.”
“So if we can lock we can lock down these areas and make people come in on foot,” he continued. “We think that helps to prevent these things from happening. And we’ve seen those strategies work in other cities.”
The chief again called for more officers on Tuesday.
“So to have 70, nearly 70 less officers a year later is definitely going to have an impact on our ability to address public safety,” Armstrong said.
On Monday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also called for additional officers.
“That analysis will make a case that additional police staffing is needed in the week of this violence spree,” Libby Schaaf said of her upcoming crime proposals.
When asked if more officers would solve the problem, one Oakland resident wasn’t so sure.
“I am Emma, and I live in deep East Oakland,” she told KPIX. “I would say it’s partly the answer.”
Emma reached out to KPIX to express her concerns about crime. She said it’s not necessarily about numbers, but it is certainly about responsiveness.
“When we call the police, the answer we get is there are things that they must address in our concerns,” explained Emma. “It appears that in the communities, in the flatlands, we’re not as important as people in other areas.”
It is a longtime complaint from East Oakland residents; that their crime concerns take a back seat to other parts of town. From violence to illegal dumping, Emma says her community feels left behind.
“We need council persons to move into each other’s districts to see, for themselves, what we deal with,” she said.
The mayor said on Monday she would soon present a revised policing strategy to officials. City council will hold a special meeting to address gun violence on December 7th.MORE NEWS: Stockton Woman Fatally Shot Over The Weekend
Wilson Walker contributed to this report.