OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Citing shots fired twice at officers over the weekend, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne L. Armstrong said Tuesday about the firepower of the “violent caravans” that are committing crimes in East Bay City.
At the beginning of his press conference, Armstrong observed a two-minute silence for the 127 Oakland murder victims that year, including the fatal shots at news crew security guard Kevin Nashita last week and the murder of man Eric Davis over the weekend who attempted a vehicle break-in near the Stop Lake Merritt.
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The city has also been ravaged by smash-and-grab theft mobs, armed robbery of cannabis dispensaries, shootings, and illegal sideshow, often marked by gunfire.
Over the weekend, Armstrong dispatched heavily armed tactical teams to four quadrants of the city to counter the firepower of the robbery caravans.
“Last weekend we set up additional teams to go around the community and tackle these violent robbery caravans,” he said. “A tactical response is what I used. What I did was split up our tactical team to divide our specially trained officers across the city into four quadrants to make sure we can respond quickly to those who come to Oakland and caravans with vehicles, armed suspects, around Would try to rob businesses. “
“We were prepared and will continue to be prepared in the future,” he added.
Of particular concern, Armstrong said, were the weapons these caravans brought with them.
“What I was concerned about was the amount of firepower that we face every time these caravans come to Oakland and our patrolmen have to drive into these situations and actually endanger the officers’ lives,” he said. “We had two gunshots at policemen last weekend and I have some serious concerns that policemen who respond to these caravans will be shot.”
Armstrong called the deadly Davis shootout the newest tragedy in town.
“This murder happened while Mr. Davis was chasing a group involved in car break-ins,” the boss said. “This is a tragic situation.”
The suspect vehicle in the Davis murder case was described as a Toyota Rav4, four-door, black with the passenger window popped out.
Armstrong many of the crimes were committed by suspects from outside the area.
“What we’ve seen over and over again is a group of individuals who sometimes aren’t even from Oakland and who commit multiple break-ins,” said the boss. “Up to 39 break-ins in one hour. Driving from car to car, breaking into cars. “
When asked about coordinating retail thefts, Armstrong said social media was being used.
“Well, we know that social media usage is the way it’s coordinated,” he said. “We know that some of our groups and gangs that we have identified in the city of Oakland are participating in these armed robber caravans. And we know they come from outside of Oakland too. We saw individuals and then arrested them from Vallejo and Fairfield to Stockton. “
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Aside from tactical officers, Oakland has developed other strategies to combat the crime wave.
“We will be making some policy changes to give our officers more leeway in arresting those involved in these crimes,” said Armstrong. “We’re also working with other departments in the City of Oakland to prevent these loads from coming in with vehicles and using those vehicles to escape.”
“So if we can lock down, we can lock down those areas and get people to walk in,” he continued. “We think that helps prevent things like this from happening. And we have seen that these strategies work in other cities. “
The boss again asked for more officials on Tuesday.
“A year later, having 70, nearly 70 fewer officers, will definitely affect our ability to improve public safety,” said Armstrong.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also called for additional officials on Monday.
“This analysis will show that additional police personnel will be needed in the week of this violence,” said Libby Schaaf of her upcoming crime proposals.
When asked if other officials would solve the problem, an Oakland resident wasn’t so sure.
“I’m Emma, and I live in the deep east of Oakland,” she told KPIX. “I would say it’s partly the answer.”
Emma reached out to KPIX to express concern about the crime. She said it wasn’t necessarily about numbers, but it was certainly about responsiveness.
“When we call the police, we get the answer that there are some things they need to address in our concerns,” said Emma. “It seems that we in the communities, in the lowlands, are not as important as the people in other areas.”
It’s a long-standing complaint from East Oakland residents; that their crime concerns take a back seat to other parts of the city. From violence to illegal trash, Emma says her community feels abandoned.
“We need councilors who move to each other’s districts to see for ourselves what we’re up against,” she said.
The mayor said on Monday that she would soon present a revised police strategy to officials. The city council will hold a special session on December 7th to address gun violence.
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Wilson Walker contributed to this report.