Businesses in Oakland organized a one-day strike on Tuesday to protest rising crime levels and the city’s inadequate response to public safety concerns.
About the strike: Many business owners closed their establishments to demand increased support from local, state and federal leaders in addressing the crime wave that has plagued Oakland. The merchants shared stories of dealing with robberies, car break-ins and assaults, with many feeling that city officials have been ineffective in curbing the criminal activity targeting their stores.
A conference was held outside Le Cheval, a beloved Vietnamese restaurant, that will close on Saturday after nearly 40 years of operation due to crime.
“It’s very sad. It’s very tough to make the painful decision to shut it down because there are a lot of memories,” owner Son Tran, who joined the strike, told CBS News. “But I ran out of money, and I got tired of the criminals around here.”
Crime in the city: Oakland reportedly saw a 46% increase in auto burglary compared to last year’s reported cases from the same period, while robbery has gone up by 30%, according to the Oakland Police Department.
What business owners are asking for: During the strike, business owners called for greater resources, including the addition of 1,000 Oakland police officers, increased support from various levels of government and a declaration of a state of emergency in Oakland. The strike also came in the wake of Oakland missing the deadline to apply for state funds to combat retail theft, further exacerbating the problem.
“We don’t want to waste time blaming anybody,” Carl Chan, President of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, said, according to KTVU. “Today we want to also focus on the solutions and what we can do together to make positive changes.”
“Even though they may get caught, they don’t get prosecuted,” Nolan Wong, owner of International Coin Laundromat, said. “It’s a battle to figure out how we get in touch with these criminals to get them to stop.”
City’s response: While Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao did not respond to the strike directly, she previously expressed a willingness to work with business owners on safety initiatives and stated that she had been meeting with small business groups to support efforts to deter crime and promote safer streets in the city.
“In just the last few weeks, we have expanded foot patrols in commercial districts citywide and partnered with business groups to encourage public space activation that brings visitors to our businesses and promotes safer communities,” the city of Oakland also said in a statement released on Tuesday. “In the coming weeks, we will disburse grants for community ambassadors, safety programs and small business assistance.”
“We are actively partnering with businesses, nonprofit groups, state and regional governments to reduce crime,” the city added. “The City of Oakland values its longstanding relationships and engagement with the business community and will continue its dedication to engagement and constructive collaboration to address these issues.”