OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – A CBS News poll finds most Californians say crime is an important issue facing the state, including more than two in three who consider it very important.
Crime is often a hot-button political issue, but how people view it often depends on their individual life experience. And now there are numbers to back it up.
CBS News commissioned a poll of more than 1,800 Californians about important issues facing the state. Wildfires and the coronavirus topped the list, at 77 and 72% respectively.
"But crime is right up there, very close in terms of top issues for Californians, at 68%," said Anthony Salvanto, CBS News Elections and Surveys Director.
Oakland is often in the news regarding issues of crime but even there, there are differences in how people see the scope of the problem.
"I would not say that crime here is a bigger problem than anywhere else I've ever been," said Oakland college student Aidan Thompson-McTaggart. "It's not on my mind a lot."
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Shawn Granberry is a lifelong Oakland resident. "Crime is definitely an issue in Oakland," Granberry told KPIX 5. "Anyone that says crime isn't an issue in Oakland is not living in Oakland."
Granberry said Oakland has become a town of haves and have-nots and young Black men don't feel they have much economic future. That feeling is reflected strongly—at 72%—in the poll responses about preventing crime.
"The top one, across the board for a lot of Californians, is saying more economic opportunity for people would help reduce crime," said Salvanto. "Similarly, a lot of Californians said more mental health services could help."
Mental health services scored 68% as an answer to preventing crime. Collin Vaughan agrees, saying it made a huge difference for him, and probably saved his life.
"Because, mental health treatment has transformed my life," the 23-year-old said. "If it wasn't for the medication, the therapists, everything…I would be dead by now."
About half in the poll said fewer guns would help and half want more funding for police. But the relationship hasn't always been good between police and Oakland's Black community.
"They don't live here, they don't walk the community. They just drive their cars and show up when something happens," said Granberry. "They don't know the community."
The poll shows 50% of those surveyed feel "protected" by the police, while 8% feel "threatened." But 31% feel a mix of both, like Tara Jones who, as an African-American woman, isn't afraid of cops but fears for the safety of her teenage son.
"When you live it, it changes the way you move, the way you act, the way you could actually enjoy the world," Jones said. "Somebody from a gated community probably enjoys the world much differently than my son at 6'8" and 18-years-old."
Jones said, in her neighborhood, there is no escaping the threat. Crime, it seems, may be a universal concern, but with individual impacts.
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