The Bay Area is the heart of America’s new economy: home to tech companies composing 27 percent of the S&P 500. Oakland, nestled on the east side of the San Francisco Bay between hills and the sea, enjoys year-round sunshine and temperatures ranging from 60 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Parks with golden plains, redwood jungles, mountains, and beaches all lie within 15 minutes of the city by car. Few places on Earth can rival either its economy or its geography, let alone both.
The only problem: rampant crime.
Lawlessness spiked during the pandemic and continues to rise, including both violent and nonviolent crimes. First responders take almost 20 minutes to respond to calls. Rape has increased by a sixth—this year alone. To see how bad things have gotten, ride shotgun with me on a drive down Bush Street towards Fentanyl Island.
Welcome to Glass City. Parking lots, curbs, and sidewalks crunch under your feet—be careful where your toddler steps. This is the city’s favorite pastime: “bipping.” Gangs and the homeless break into cars and scrounge for items sellable on black markets. Dozens of TeslaCam videos can show you what bipping looks like: rows of parked cars with their windshields smashed, the thieves speeding away with pilfered valuables. Theft has become so ubiquitous that residents will stumble across these incidents by accident. I had lunch one afternoon with a local reporter and happened on one. It’s everywhere.
Retailers have long complained about shoplifting to the deaf ears of officials. Merchants with means hire private security. CVS and Walgreens deploy guards at all their stores. Even so, necessities like detergent and razors are kept behind lock and key. Hundreds of stores and restaurants ranging from large chains to small family-owned enterprises have shuttered permanently; abandoned graffiti-covered storefronts flank Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, while for-lease signs festoon windows downtown. Alameda County DA Pamela Price has signaled clearly to shoplifters that they won’t be prosecuted. An incident this June is illustrative. A woman robbed a store, was apprehended and released, and then returned fewer than two hours later to rob that same store again; she was later sprung—a second time.
Carjacking has become another major concern. Masked criminals as young as 14 years old ambush drivers in out-of-the-way areas—en route to parks, for example. One minute, you’re taking your dog for a walk; the next, you are an inch away from getting murdered. No, “Baby on Board” stickers don’t dissuade them.
Oakland’s signature crime is homicide. No other cities in the Bay Area come close. A postal worker with a reputation for kindness and taking good care of her son was stabbed dozens of times less than a block away from her house. A senior was shot just before dinnertime while gardening on his front lawn. During a daytime shootout on Interstate 880, gangbangers killed Jasper Wu while he sat in the backseat of his family’s SUV; he was 23 months old.
Nonprofits have joined together to issue warnings about widespread abduction and human trafficking. Black girls downtown are most at-risk. The abductors will often force their victims into prostitution. Once quiet neighborhoods have been overrun by prostitutes.
Let’s not forget the circus of human misery that is the public transit system. Walk down the stairs into the tunnel, ignore the reek of piss and the addicts breathing fentanyl into your face, calmly pass by the psychopath with the meat cleaver, and you will arrive at the Bay Area Rapid Transit. Weirdos will urinate and masturbate and smoke and shoot heroin and shout obscenities in front of commuters. If you can afford it, try to avoid the BART—but know that BART is one of the only methods of public transportation between Oakland and San Francisco. It’s no surprise that safety, and not the high fares, has been the biggest concern for passengers.
Who’s to blame? The mayor of Oakland, Sheng Thao, was elected on an ultra-progressive platform. Her issues included preserving “a woman’s right to reproductive freedom,” notwithstanding the fact that abortion is and will remain legal in California, and undoing “decades of environmental racism.” During her tenure as a member of the City Council, she voted to halt plans to add additional police academies. Just a few months ago, she wanted to cease hiring more officers.
Thao isn’t alone. Price, the DA, is a radical who advocates for differential sentencing based on the race of the offender. She prevented her office from adding enhancements for charges that can help keep the most remorseless criminals off the streets. She dismissed 2 out of 3 murder charges in one case. In another, she didn’t press the courts for gang charges for the murder of a 5-year-old girl against overwhelming evidence of gang activity. And remember Jasper Wu, the toddler who was brutally executed on the freeway? Price offered the possibility of parole to the suspects, and reacted to backlash by repeating her favorite catchphrase: “We will continue to hold these men accountable….”
Then there are the nonprofits devoted to defunding or even abolishing police and prisons. Thanks to out-of-touch philanthropists funding their operations, these groups have flourished in recent years. Some are local organizations, some are large conglomerates with a local chapter, and some are philanthropic foundations that both conduct their own operations and dole out money to smaller activist outfits.
I attended a recent meeting of Care 4 Community Action, an anti-anti-crime NGO. Activists from that group alleged that the local chapter of the NAACP—yes, that NAACP—had been “hijacked” by the alt-right. How? Grassroots activists, including Neighbors Together Oakland and the NAACP, had organized a rally and town hall to address the safety crisis, and they invited locals to ask Thao and Price questions. That, according to these activists, had brought the NAACP in league with Nazis. It should be noted that the alleged hijackers and NAACP members are all African-American.
These groups also create pamphlets that look like adult coloring books urging victims of domestic violence to avoid calling 911. And of course, they campaign door-to-door to get out the vote for ever-more-extreme progressive candidates.
Nowhere are the failures of the blue-city governance model and the nonprofit-industrial complex more hellishly concentrated than in Oakland. Yet what happens here will not stay here. Professional culture has no state boundaries: Sheng Thaos and Pamela Prices are being churned out of elite universities throughout the country. Freeway executions and bips and kidnappings and carjackings and overdoses are coming to a community near you.