Oakland’s Montclair District, facing rise in crime, voices frustration with city’s response

In the wake of a murder on New Year’s Eve in Oakland’s tony Montclair District, the moderator at a heavily-attended public safety town hall on Thursday night asked how many of them had been a victim of violent crime. Almost all of them raised their hand.

Oakland beatMontclair residents are rattled by the murder of Shun Xeng, who was murdered after chasing two men suspected of stalking his laptop from Starbucks in Montclair Village.

The murder was North Oakland’s third in all of 2019, the lowest in the area in years, Oakland Police Capt. Chris Bolton said. But growing instances of other types of crimes, including burglaries in the district appeared to have hit a tipping point with the latest homicide.

For example, auto burglaries have exploded on Snake Road and at the Safeway grocery store on Mountain Boulevard. OPD is currently working with the store to alleviate the issue, Bolton said.

But as the town hall neared its 8:30 p.m. conclusion with only two questions asked of the panelists among nearly 100, the crowd became upset at the torpid pace of the meeting.

Waves of residents began to leave in disgust and one man angrily cried out his frustration with what he called the city’s inaction when it comes to crime and an anti-law enforcement sentiment prevalent in Oakland. When another resident told him his outburst was disrespectful, the man responded, “At some point the anger is justified.”

Controversy preceded the town hall. Hours earlier, the Oakland Police Officers Association released a terse statement in response to Councilmember Sheng Thao’s policy proposal to place one officer on walking beats in places like Montclair.

“It took Oakland’s 75th murder of 2019, at the Montclair Village Starbucks on New Year’s Eve, for Oakland City Council Member Sheng Thao to finally address the rising crime rate in Oakland” the statement read. ” Unfortunately, her recent rhetoric on crime is not matched by action on crime during her first year in office.”

Oakland Police Officers Association President Barry Donelan slammed Thao for allowing the police department’s ranks to decrease last year, along with her reluctance to address the issue with the union. “All we sought was an explanation. However, we have been met with silence from the Council Member and her staff,” Donelan said.   

Sheng disagreed with the police union’s statements, adding the decreased number of police officers is Oakland is due to the inability to quickly fill vacancies that follow retirement. She urged the police union not to politicize Zeng’s death. “I am taking this very seriously. That is why I want to bring stakeholders together, not start unnecessary political fights at the expense of my constituents and the residents of Oakland,” Thao said.