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Oakland mayor asks for patience as she tackles crime, blight, homelessness

Oakland mayor asks for patience as she tackles crime in The Town
Oakland mayor asks for patience as she tackles crime in The Town 03:11

OAKLAND -- Speaking with Oakland residents at the last of her two "Town Talk" events Saturday, Oakland mayor Sheng Thao insisted her administration is acting with urgency when it comes to crime.

At Castlemont High School in east Oakland the mayor wanted to hear from residents about issues and solutions the city should prioritize.

Attendees broke into small groups to come up with ideas. 

As a way to supplement the staffing shortage at the police department, Dawn Abram said she would like to see community volunteers help patrol the streets -- similar to what's happening in Oakland's Chinatown. 

"I consider this a state of emergency. I've never seen Oakland this way before," Abram said.

Abram, an East Oakland native, graduated from Castlemont High and attended UCLA. She returned as a social worker and has spent the past two decades working to improve the city she loves.

"Even though I had opportunities in Los Angeles and D.C. to do other things, I came back to Oakland to give back to my community," Abram said.

Like many neighbors, she doesn't feel safe -- even in her own home. Three years ago, a gun battle in the street sent multiple stray bullets into her parked car and house.

"In the bathroom and, so, one of the bullets came in just over right my shoulder and I felt something," Abram recalled.

Crime has got so bad that roughly 200 businesses plan to shut down for two hours on Tuesday to protest the conditions. Business owners say customers are fearful to spend money in the city. They want the mayor to do more.

"Crimes did not just happen overnight and so it's going to take a little bit of time for us to implement and execute at the government level," Mayor Thao said.

Mayor Thao reminded people she's only been in office since January. She's asking for patience.

"Just this past week, we've announced that we're doubling the number of officers that you will see visibly walking around in the business corridors. More so than that, we have bait cars that are out there. We have also undercover units that are working," the mayor said.

Thao also plans to install about 300 surveillance cameras throughout the city. The goal is to have those cameras up and running by the end of this year or early next year.

The mayor said the input from the small group discussions will help shape her policies moving forward.

As for Abram, she hopes things will turn around soon. She's thinking about leaving the town she loves.

"Just physical safety and not wanting to live in a state of terror," Abram said.

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