Oakland stuck in a ‘doom loop’ as residents flee and crime rises – Washington Examiner

OAKLAND, California — Oakland has always pitched itself as San Francisco’s scrappier cousin.

Known as the “other city” by the Bay, it has taken a back seat in recent years and watched San Francisco become the poster child of progressive policies gone wrong. But while San Francisco was getting all the media attention, Oakland was suffering setback after setback, and today, it is in a state of disrepair.

It is riddled with violent crime, vehicle theft, homelessness, open-air drug dens, and retail theft. In fact, it is so bad that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) deployed 120 California Highway Patrol officers to Oakland to help rein in the bad behavior.

The Oakland skyline is seen from Lake Merritt on March 4, 2020, in Oakland, California. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

“As crime rates across California decrease — including right across the Bay in San Francisco — Oakland is seeing the opposite trend,” Newsom said in a statement. “What’s happening in this beautiful city and surrounding area is alarming and unacceptable.”

Mayor Sheng Thao called Newsom’s added officers, which represent a ninefold increase in the number of state police officers patrolling the area, a “game changer” in helping the city “hold more criminals accountable and make Oakland safer.”

Robberies in Oakland jumped 38%, burglaries increased 23%, motor vehicle theft spiked 44%, and according to a San Francisco Chronicle analysis, one out of every 30 Oakland residents had their car stolen last year.

The conditions are a far cry from Oakland’s pre-pandemic potential. The city had an energetic nightlife, housing was more affordable than in neighboring areas, and downtown was filled with art, shops, and people.

That’s not how it looks these days.

Picture taken of a large homeless encampment in Oakland, California, on March 7, 2024. (Barnini Chakraborty/Washington Examiner)

Streets are littered with trash, torn tents, tires, used condoms, and needles. There are charred cars and car parts dumped on the side of the road and empty lots taken over by homeless people. A fifth of the office space in downtown Oakland is empty, a vacancy rate that is second in the region to San Francisco’s. The homeless population has soared, with people living out of broken-down vehicles, under bridges, and anywhere they can secure a spot.

Small businesses have closed down, and one of the city’s largest employers, Kaiser Permanente, sent a memo in late January warning workers about the unsafe conditions in Oakland. The company email to downtown workers suggested they bring their own food or have it delivered following a string of robberies of employees who went out midday to get something to eat.

“It’s just kind of scary in general, not even just to go to work, just kind of coming outside,” employee Ariella Crenshaw told KTVU. “If you can work at home, work at home. If you have to come in, just be safe about it.”

Other Oakland employers have hired additional security personnel to walk workers to their cars after work or have beefed up security measures. Those measures were not helpful to the owners of Eddie’s Drive In Liquors. Last month, thieves plowed a truck through the glass doors, took the cash inside, and looted alcohol and cigarettes. It was the fourth time something like that had happened at the store since November 2023.

Photo taken near a homeless encampment in Oakland, California, on March 7, 2024. (Barnini Chakraborty/Washington Examiner)

The Catholic Diocese of Oakland announced that St. Anthony School in Oakland would be closing because of serious safety concerns that included the presence of human trafficking operations around the school.

It has gotten so bad in Oakland that the NAACP published an open letter demanding change.

“Oakland residents are sick and tired of our intolerable public safety crisis that overwhelmingly impacts minority communities,” Cynthia Adams, president of the Oakland branch of the NAACP, and Bishop Bob Jackson, senior pastor at Acts Full Gospel Church, wrote in a joint statement.

“Murders, shootings, violent armed robberies, home invasions, car break-ins, sideshows, and highway shootouts have become a pervasive fixture of life in Oakland,” they continued. “We call on all elected leaders to unite and declare a state of emergency and bring together massive resources to address our public safety crisis.”

Adams and Jackson added that people have been moving out of Oakland in droves.

“They are afraid to venture out of their homes to go to work, shop, or dine in Oakland and this is destroying economic activity,” they said. “Businesses, small and large, struggle and close, tax revenues vanish, and we are creating the notorious doom loop where life in our city continues to spiral downward. As economic pain increases, the conditions that help create crime and criminals are exacerbated by desperate people with no employment opportunities.”

At one of Oakland’s largest homeless encampments located behind The Home Depot on Alameda Avenue, the Washington Examiner spoke to two people who had weapons out and claimed to have heroin on them. One man, Willie Newcolm, moved to Oakland from Texas and said he has no plans to leave.

A teal fence at the back of the parking lot at The Home Depot in Oakland separates the hardware store from one of the largest homeless encampments in the city on March 7, 2024. (Barnini Chakraborty/Washington Examiner)

The store has tried everything to move the encampment, but little has worked. At one point, employees started blaring classical music into the parking lot 24 hours a day, but that only ticked off neighbors.


“This is our home now,” Newcolm said, pointing to a pile of trash and used tires. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Behind him were zombie-like adults, too blitzed on mind-bending substances to realize they were seconds away from being hit by a car coming off the freeway.