One in thirty Oakland residents had their car stolen last year as 15,000 vehicles were stolen – a 45 percent increase in just a year.
The shocking figure is the highest in 15 years.
However, less than five percent of those auto theft cases lead to an actual arrest as the California city’s understaffed and underfunded police department are preoccupied dealing with a 21 percent spike in violent crime. And there are also just two police officers assigned to deal with car theft.
Mary Remington’s 2018 Honda Fit, Milan Sanders’ 2019 Kia Sorento, and Emily Frazier’s 2020 Kia Forte were all ruthlessly swiped away, they told the San Fransisco Chronicle.
The city’s mayor and DA are both outspoken progressives who have both said that police accountability and racial equity are a priority, but fed-up locals have pleaded with them to make the Bay Area city safer.
In October, even Oakland’s District Attorney Pamela Price had her work laptop stolen during a car smash-and-grab outside a family justice center mid-day.
This comes as the campaign to recall Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, also known as Save Alameda for Everyone (SAFE), ramps up. The recall effort was initiated in 2023.
The epicenter of this surge lies in Uptown and North Oakland, which witnessed a shocking 69 percent spike in car thefts, according to data from the Police Department and the state.
The Chronicle revealed several reasons experts credit with the growing crisis that is plaguing the city.
One major factor is the lack of basic anti-theft technology in popular Kia and Hyundai models, exacerbated by a viral social media challenge encouraging thieves to target these specific cars, according to the Chronicle.
Additionally, tight police resources are reportedly being directed towards higher-priority crimes.
In Oakland, this surge in property and violent crimes reflects the broader impact of the unsettling trend.
Victims like 63-year-old Remington, who discovered her Honda Fit missing from her apartment complex’s garage, are in despair.
Despite witnessing crime ever since she moved to the city 23 years ago, Remington told the Chronicle that she has noticed the worsening trend in car-related crimes.
‘It’s unbelievable what is happening,’ she said to the Chronicle.
Social media posts from neighbors also have highlighted the growing concern, she said, with incidents ranging from car break-ins to armed carjackings just blocks away.
Two months after her car was stolen, Remington received a call from the police – her vehicle was found in San Leandro, missing its plates.
To ensure the safety of her replacement car, Remington opted for a model equipped with LoJack, a tracking system to aid recovery in case of future thefts.
Despite this incident, the odds of finding and arresting car thieves in Oakland remain slim.
In 2022, police made arrests in only about 4.5 percent of auto theft cases – a lower rate compared to San Francisco and San Jose.
The Oakland Police Department’s limited resources, with just two officers dedicated to auto theft investigations, reflects the harsh reality of prioritizing violent crimes in the face of soaring crime rates.
Police Department spokesman Paul Chambers defended their commitment to reducing crime, emphasizing the challenging environment where violent crimes demand immediate attention.
In an email to the Chronicle, he said that the department was ‘committed to reducing crime and serving the community.’
Oakland experienced a 21 percent increase in violent crime in 2023, along with a staggering 38 percent rise in robberies and a 23 percent increase in burglaries.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao emphasized ongoing investments in police resources and technology.
A $360 million deficit in the city’s general fund prompted Thao to freeze hundreds of vacant positions, including those within the police department, further straining resources amidst rising crime rates.
In an emailed statement to the Chronicle, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said that safety for kids, businesses and families was her priority.
She announced that the city is allegedly investing in a ‘robust and accountable police department,’ advancing violence prevention initiatives, and turning to technology to ‘modernize’ investigations.
‘Progress is underway and investments are starting to bear fruit,’ the mayor said, adding that there has been a decrease in auto burglaries following the city’s deployment of a special unit of uniformed and plainclothes officers dedicated to thwarting the break-ins in September.
A TikTok car theft challenge, showing a step-by-step guide on how to steal certain Kia and Hyundai models, has only fueled the fire.
With the manufacturer ceasing to install ‘immobilizers’ in their vehicles from 2011 to 2022, these cars have become prime targets for thieves.
Crime has spiked so badly in Oakland that locals revealed they leave their car windows down so the glass won’t be smashed when thieves break in.
Homicides are in triple-digits four years running, car thefts are up 50 per cent in a year, and 1,000 more people are living on the street.