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Newsom to Send State Prosecutors to Oakland to Help Crack Down on Rising Crime

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An Oakland police officer puts yellow crime tape around a sidewalk.
Oakland police investigate a shooting in the Fruitvale Public Market plaza on May 16, 2023. (Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images)

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans on Thursday to send state prosecutors to Oakland as part of his latest effort to crack down on rising crime in the city.

The move, in partnership with the state Attorney General’s Office, comes on the heels of the governor’s decision announced just days earlier to send 120 California Highway Patrol officers to Oakland, where violent crimes — including assaults, robberies and retail theft — have spiked even as they have been on the wane in many other California cities.

The additional attorneys will help the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office prosecute suspects arrested for “serious and complex crimes,” according to the governor’s office.

“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.”

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.


Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, who took office last year as a progressive reformer and now faces a recall campaign, said she appreciated the additional resources to prosecute some of the most prolific violent crimes, including those involving drug trafficking and auto theft.

She noted, however, that it is “regrettably, not a large operation” and likely would only include three Southern California-based prosecutors from the California National Guard, who she said were “very experienced” and would work under the direction of one of her senior attorneys.

“I think there’s a national perception that Oakland is in crisis,” Price told reporters on Thursday, noting that the offer of legal assistance was initiated by the governor’s office, not by her. “And as the governor pointed out, we’re experiencing a rise in crime. The crime rates here are excessive and they need to be dealt with.”

More on Oakland crime issues

Price said the governor’s decision is consistent with his plan to send additional CHP officers to the city, which is expected to lead to more arrests.

“We expected them to come here, and that was fine,” she said of the CHP officers. “And so as they are able to ramp up, when appropriate, the number of arrests, then, of course, we appreciate the support and the number of prosecutions.”

“We intend to tackle the crime activity as well as we can,” Price said, adding that she didn’t know exactly when the state prosecutors would start working in her office or how long they intended to stay.

But Alameda County public defender Brendon Woods called Newsom’s plan “a Band-Aid to fix a broken arm.”

“More prosecution, more police. They’re not the solution,” Woods said. “The solution here is more money for housing. Community-based organizations. Higher wages. Employment. Those are all things that have been proven to make our community safer.”

Woods said California had already tried ramping up prosecutions and harsher sentences, and doing that only led to mass incarceration and severe prison overcrowding.

“It’s more Black and brown people are going to be held in jails and prisons in cages. That’s what’s going to happen,” he said. “Just throwing more police and more DAs does make the public feel safer, but doesn’t actually create public safety.”

A spate of recent headlines has focused on the city’s rising crime rates, economic woes, and the ongoing efforts to recall both Price and Mayor Sheng Thao — largely over crime concerns.

Oakland has also been without a permanent police chief since February 2023, when Thao fired former chief LeRonne Armstrong after a probe found he mishandled two misconduct cases. Armstrong has since fought to get his job back, and on Monday, he sued the city and the mayor, arguing he was unlawfully terminated in retaliation for criticizing a federal court-appointed monitor overseeing his department.

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 criminal justice data makes it very clear that the thing that deters someone from committing crime is the belief that they will get caught if they commit it. Not so much that they will serve a longer sentence,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta, who previously represented Oakland in the state Assembly. “They don’t want to get caught. And so it’s important that there be accountability that’s swift and certain, that people get arrested for the crimes that they commit, and they be held accountable in a proportionate way for what they’ve done.”

Correction (Feb. 9): The state prosecutors being sent to Oakland are expected to come from the California National Guard, not the Attorney General’s Office, as previously stated.

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