Newsom Sends 120 State Law Enforcement Officers to Oakland Amid Crime Surge

Newsom (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
February 6, 2024

California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) on Tuesday said he is sending 120 state law enforcement officers to help manage Oakland's surging crime problems, as the city's top two progressive leaders face potential recalls over the crisis and state voter worries over crime ding the governor's own approval ratings.

"What's happening in this beautiful city and surrounding area is alarming and unacceptable," Newsom said in a statement.

Newsom's move comes as he campaigns out of state for President Joe Biden, who faces his own share of public disgruntlement over crime, and attempts to bolster his national profile ahead of a potential 2028 presidential run. Oakland's problems with rampant theft and carjackings have spiked under the progressive leadership of Mayor Sheng Thao and George Soros-backed District Attorney Pamela Price, driving national headlines and propelling local residents to organize two separate recall campaigns to oust them from office.

The state highway patrol officers' tasks will include curbing auto theft, cargo theft, retail crime, and violent crime while adding "high-visibility traffic enforcement," according to the governor's announcement. They will use license plate readers to try to find stolen cars and launch air patrols as well.

Newsom's critics in the Legislature see the announcement as politically motivated, noting the governor's record of signing laws to lighten criminal punishments, create paths for more lenient resentencing, and empty prisons.

"Newsom's announcement today is nothing but a cheap political stunt designed to look like he is tough on crime, while he continues to close prisons and release dangerous criminals onto the street," said Republican assemblyman Bill Essayli, a former federal prosecutor who has led state GOP efforts to reverse California's soft-on-crime policies.

The trooper surge follows Newsom's January meeting with Oakland community leaders, including members of the city's NAACP chapter and various CEOs and church leaders, about the crisis. Oakland's NAACP last summer urged city politicians to declare a state of emergency over crime and in September released its own plan to manage the crisis. Headlining that plan was the proposal to boost law enforcement and hire a police chief—a position that has been vacant for more than a year since Thao, Oakland's mayor, placed the former chief on leave and then fired him.

A representative for Thao did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement included in Newsom's press release, the mayor said the city "is hard at work turning the tide" of crime and violence.

Last year, Thao came under fire when city leadership missed a deadline to apply for millions of dollars to help fight retail theft.