Police in Oakland, California are telling residents not to confront people breaking into their cars after seven suspects were arrested in three incidents late last month.
“The individuals involved in locked auto burglaries have become extremely brazen. Something that’s typically a non-violent crime has become much more dangerous for police and for the community,” said Oakland interim assistant police chief, Tony Jones. “We want to caution the public. Don’t try to engage with these individuals who are breaking into your car.”
During one of the incidents, officers caught thieves cutting a catalytic converter out of a vehicle in an underground garage. When officers approached, the suspects fled and rammed a police vehicle blocking the exit.
“A lot of these individuals have guns, and they’re armed, and they’re dangerous,” said Jones. “[Our officers] got rammed, it could have gotten deadly, and so we don’t want people to risk their personal safety over personal belongings that they can acquire some other day. It’s just not worth it.”
Jones says that officers have trained for such encounters, which allows them to respond without the use of lethal force.
“This operation got a little dangerous, and our officers showed tremendous restraint,” he continued. “We have experienced an uptick in individuals ramming our police cars attempting to escape.”
Following a chase which include a foot pursuit, police apprehended the catalytic converter thieves, discovering burglary tools and catalytic converters in their vehicle.
In another case, criminals who switched license plates fled when officers attempted a traffic stop. Upon apprehending them they found several firearms in their car.
According to Jones, stolen vehicles with swapped license plates are common.
“We have to be just as vigilant in how we adapt to the different techniques they do,” he said, adding “We’re aware of the plates being switched, but you can’t switch the color of the car. You can’t turn a Honda into a Lexus.”
There have been approximately 11,000 auto burglaries and 11,000 auto thefts in Oakland this year, a 40% increase over last year, according to OPD.
“That’s a significant increase, and that’s why you’re seeing the police department take more of an initiative to focus on auto burglaries in the city,” said Jones. “We’re going to be out there a lot more, focusing on this, trying to prevent these crimes from occurring, trying to investigate these things and find people’s property that’s been taken.”
Oakland residents have recently taken to complaints regarding calls for emergencies, with some saying they are put on hold for extended periods of time and often wait hours or days for officers to respond.
The interim assistant chief acknowledged the predicament and said the department is working on solutions.
“We are aware of the challenges with the 911 system, and we’re doing everything that we can to get the staffing up in the communications division so that those problems are rectified,” Mr. Jones said. “What’s more important is the personal safety of the people of Oakland.”
With budgetary constraints facing the department, and the city failing to secure millions of dollars in public safety grants because they missed a state deadline earlier this year, the department is working to reallocate its budget to further investigate auto burglaries, he said.
“We do have limited resources, but we can manage them in a way that allows us to do these operations regularly,” Mr. Jones said. -Epoch Times