California governor to send prosecutors to Oakland to help crack down on rising crime

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — California’s governor announced plans Thursday to send prosecutors to Oakland in his latest move to crack down on rising crime in the San Francisco Bay Area city where brazen robberies in broad daylight have drawn national attention.

Gov. Gavin Newsom days earlier said he would deploy 120 California Highway Patrol officers to also help with targeted crackdowns on criminal activity in Oakland, a city of 400,000 people across the bay from San Francisco that has seen a spike in violent crimes, including serious drug-related offenses, retail theft, and auto burglaries, even though crime in other California urban centers is falling.

The additional deputy attorneys general from the California Department of Justice and attorneys from the California National Guard would help Alameda County prosecute suspects arrested for serious and complex crimes, Newsom said. He didn’t say how many prosecutors would be sent or when.

Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods called Newsom’s plan “a band-aid to fix a broken arm.”

“More prosecution and more police is not the solution here,” Woods said in a statement. “We need housing, money for community-based organizations, higher wages, employment, as well as money for our schools, medical care and mental health.”

Car break-ins where the thieves use a car-escape tool to tap a glass window and silently shatter it and then steal belongings left inside the car have become so commonplace in the Bay Area that the criminal activity has its own verb: “bipping” a car. Some thieves have “bipped” cars in broad daylight with occupants in them.

“An arrest isn’t enough,” Newsom said in a statement. “Justice demands that suspects are appropriately prosecuted. Whether it’s ‘bipping’ or carjacking, attempted murder or fentanyl trafficking, individuals must be held accountable for their crimes using the full and appropriate weight of the law.”

Woods said California has tried increased prosecution and harsher sentences and that led to mass incarceration and severe prison overcrowding.

“We can’t keep doing this over and over,” Woods said. “We need different solutions.”

Oakland has been without a permanent police chief since February 2023, when Mayor Sheng Thao fired then-Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong after a probe ordered by the oversight monitor found he mishandled two misconduct cases. Armstrong sued the city of Oakland and its mayor on Monday, saying he was unlawfully terminated in retaliation for criticizing the federal court-appointed monitor overseeing the department.

Oakland’s police department has been under federal oversight since 2003 after a rookie officer came forward to report abuse of power by a group of officers known as the Oakland “Riders.” The case resulted in the department being required to enact more than four dozen reform measures and report its progress to an outside monitor and a federal judge.

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