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Newsom to Deploy 120 CHP Officers to Fight Crime Surge in Oakland

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A car with black and white paint that reads "Highway Patrol" in gold letters is parked on the highway.
A California Highway Patrol vehicle on Interstate 80 in Oakland, near the Berkeley border.  (Courtesy CHP)

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced plans to deploy 120 California Highway Patrol officers in and around Oakland as part of a “surge operation” to crack down on theft and violent crime in the city and surrounding area.

“What’s happening in this beautiful city and surrounding area is alarming and unacceptable,” Newsom said in a statement, noting that as crime has dropped in many cities across the state — including San Francisco and Los Angeles — it has continued to climb in Oakland. “I’m sending the California Highway Patrol to assist local efforts to restore a sense of safety that the hardworking people of Oakland and the East Bay demand and deserve.”

The deployment will mark a nearly 900% increase in CHP personnel in Oakland and Alameda County, according to the statement, and amounts to almost 20% of the total number of OPD officers.

“Throughout the operation, the CHP’s efforts will include enforcement of auto theft, cargo theft, retail crime, and high-visibility proactive traffic enforcement in and around Oakland and Alameda County,” CHP spokesperson Jaime Coffee said. The strategy, he added, is to saturate the area with officers and investigators who will work directly with local law enforcement agencies.

“This will include CHP specialty units like narcotics-detecting K9 units and air support,” Coffee said. “CHP will also deploy license-plate reader technology to detect and recover stolen vehicles.”

More on Oakland crime issues

The governor’s move follows calls for assistance from a growing number of local organizations and politicians, including the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Sheng Thao. Last month, a group of Oakland community leaders traveled to Sacramento to meet with the governor and request more crime-fighting resources.

A spate of recent headlines have focused on the city’s rising crime rates, economic woes, and the ongoing efforts to recall its mayor and the county’s district attorney — largely over crime concerns.

Violent crime in Oakland increased by 21% in 2023, compared to the previous year — with the number of homicides plateauing at 120 — while robberies climbed 38% and motor vehicle theft jumped 45%, according to Oakland Police Department end-of-year data.

“The Oakland police has a ‘no chase’ policy. Most of the criminals, they are jumping from one city to another, and OPD cannot chase them,” said Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, who was among the group of community advocates that attended the January meeting with Newsom. “The CHP has the right to go into all the different cities within the state. So that is extremely helpful.”

The deployment also comes after the Newsom administration late last year distributed over $267 million in grants to local police and sheriff’s departments and district attorney’s offices throughout California to fight organized retail theft. But Oakland received none of that funding because it missed the application deadline, a blunder that Thao later said she, as mayor, took “full responsibility for.”

“The governor brought that up one, two, three times,” said Robert Harris of the Oakland NAACP, who was also at the January meeting. “He talked about the missed deadline, and then about 10 minutes later, he said the same thing over, ‘We’ve made that available to you, and you didn’t file.'”

Facing criticism from conservatives over his handling of crime in the state, Newsom has recently toughened his stance on the issue, last month calling for new legislation to expand criminal penalties for property crimes — even as he has so far sidestepped demands to reform Proposition 47, the 2014 measure that reduced certain drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

The governor’s office last year also sent six CHP officers and a sergeant to Oakland to help with traffic enforcement and extended a $1.2 million loan to the city to install automated license-plate readers, leading to the arrest of 100 suspected criminals and the recovery of 193 stolen vehicles, it said.

In Newsom’s Tuesday statement, Thao welcomed the additional help from the state. She said Oakland was “hard at work turning the tide” on the city’s crime surge by increasing police recruitment, expanding investigations, and investing in violence intervention programs.


“I’m grateful for Gov. Newsom for providing these critical law enforcement resources that are a game-changer in helping us hold more criminals accountable and make Oakland safer,” Thao said.

Still, the Anti Police-Terror Project, an Oakland-based criminal justice reform group, was quick to criticize Newsom’s plan, calling it a misguided investment that, unlike smart prevention strategies, would do little to reduce violent crime in the city and instead further stoke tensions between law enforcement and communities of color.

And while Newsom’s statement underscored the need to bolster law enforcement in Oakland, it also listed community-based measures his administration has supported, some of which echo ideas proposed by the Oakland NAACP and other local groups.

“The state has also expanded opportunities for youth by transforming Oakland’s schools into community schools, mandating and funding after-school programs, awarding Oakland grants for youth coaches, establishing targeted college and career savings accounts, and providing tuition-free community college for students at Oakland community colleges,” the statement said.

Since 2019, it added, Alameda County has received over $1 billion from the state to boost affordable housing and over $200 million to address homelessness directly.

“We can see that the governor was very serious about what he was saying, and he’s delivering on what he said,” said Bishop Bob Jackson, senior pastor of Acts Full Gospel Church. “He really cares about Oakland, and we were really glad about that.”

This story includes reporting from KQED’s Matthew Green and Ruth Dusseault of Bay City News.

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