Posted on February 13, 2024

Rising Crime Risks Turning Oakland Into a ‘Ghost Town’

Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN, February 6, 2024

Violent crime and other felonies fell in 2023 in America’s biggest cities. They increased in Oakland.

Robberies grew 38% last year in Oakland, according to police data. Burglaries increased 23%. Motor vehicle theft jumped 44%. Roughly one of every 30 Oakland residents had a car stolen last year, according to a San Francisco Chronicle analysis.

On Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he was taking action, deploying 120 California Highway Patrol officers to Oakland and the surrounding area to conduct a law enforcement surge operation. The aim: to crack down on crime, including vehicle theft, retail theft and violent crime.


Business owners have been pleading for help for months.


Nigel Jones isn’t giving up on Oakland, even after Kingston 11, his community food center for low-income families, was vandalized and its glass doors smashed.

Jones immigrated to the United States from Jamaica when he was 16 and made his home in Oakland. The chef and restauranter currently owns two Jamaican restaurants, Calabash and Kingston 11. He says he is passionate about helping Oakland’s disadvantaged families.

But “residents and businesses have pulled back from the city,” due to a rise in crime and public safety concerns, he said.

In September, Jones and other downtown Oakland business owners walked off the job for a day to urge city and state leaders to improve safety in the area.

And last summer, Oakland police advised residents to use air horns to alert neighbors to intruders and add security bars to their doors and windows. The Oakland NAACP branch demanded elected leaders take action to ensure public safety, especially in predominately Black neighborhoods.


Jones said there’s a vicious cycle playing out in Oakland.

Residents and businesses have pulled back from downtowns, in part due to public safety concerns. That has left fewer people on the street and created more opportunities for robberies and other crime.


It’s not just small businesses. National companies are also pulling out of Oakland and taking extra measures to protect workers.

In-N-Out is permanently closing one of its restaurants for the first time ever, saying that its Oakland location will soon shutter because of car break-ins, property damage, theft, and armed robberies targeting employees and customers. Denny’s is shuttering its only location in Oakland after more than 54 years, citing public safety concerns.

Kaiser Permenente said a number of its employees working in its downtown Oakland offices were victims of armed robberies, vehicle theft and other crimes in the latter part of 2023. Kaiser reportedly issued a memo to employees recommending that staff stay in buildings for lunch. The company did not comment on the memo to CNN.

And Clorox said it hired uniformed security guards to chaperone employees to the office from public transit stations, parking garages, restaurants and coffee shops.


Rising crime is causing some Oakland business owners to question whether they can continue to operate in the city.

Cindy Varela, the owner of Zona Latina Hn, a Latin American restaurant, said burglars have broken into the restaurant overnight and vandalized it.


Crime “is a big problem here” and she’s lost customers because people are scared to sit down to eat.

If conditions continue like this, she may have to close the restaurant.