Stories about high-profile companies in Oakland closing shop or hiring extra security have made grim headlines in recent months. But it’s not just corporations that are feeling the crunch of increased crime in the Bay Area.

One local Oakland restaurant owner bluntly told Fox News Digital that the city where she’s spent nearly all her 45 years is “the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

Target closed its downtown Oakland location last year after police responded to more than 100 smash-and-grab thefts and similar incidents in 2023. In-N-Out recently announced its sole Oakland burger joint was closing, the first time in the company’s history it had to make such a decision, due to rampant burglaries, property damage and armed robberies in the area. A Denny’s also closed down last month because of the crime epidemic.

Then there’s Blue Shield, Clorox, and Kaiser Permanente, the largest employer in Oakland, who have issued warnings to employees, hired security guards or taken other actions in response to a crime surge in the city. 

DENNY’S SHUTTERS ONLY LOCATION IN OAKLAND AFTER MORE THAN 54 YEARS DUE TO HIGH CRIME

Weyanti Ahmed, who runs Y’s Choice restaurant in the city’s Jack London district near the waterfront, says the developments show Oakland won’t begin to thrive until it makes serious changes. The neighborhood has been beset by rising crime, forcing local hubs to close or raise prices in response. 

“It’s scary for business owners,” she told Fox News Digital. “It’s scary for even a citizen just walking down the street. It’s just not comfortable. You’re always on guard, and it’s absolutely affected my business tremendously.”

She described one particularly terrifying incident in December when a shooting occurred near the restaurant while she had customers inside. She has seven employees, and she says she no longer allows them to use public transportation if they don’t have their own vehicle.

“There’s just not enough police presence in Oakland,” she said. “Especially in our area, like downtown, Jack London, it’s a tourist attraction. So it only makes sense for a lot of the crimes to happen there, because they know a lot of tourists are down there.”

One woman told local outlet KTVU last year the once-vibrant district was turning into a “ghost town,” recounting seeing cars broken into in broad daylight while she walked her dog. Another man said, “this could be a vibrant community but it ain’t right now.”

“Defund the police? That don’t work,” he said.

IN-N-OUT CLOSING IN OAKLAND DUE TO CRIME ISSUES PART OF ‘DEGRADATION OF BAY AREA,’ LOCAL CANDIDATES SAY

Oakland police and In-N-Out split image

Ahmed says she and her fellow business owners in the neighborhood do their best to look out for one another, but they’re limited in what they can do. She’s been forced to rely more on delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub because people don’t feel comfortable dining at her restaurant, which specializes in soul and seafood. She also said she’s considered closing down her own location because of how many dine-in customers she’s lost.

“So when you’re going to have dinner or lunch or whatever it is, and then you go outside and your car’s broken into, that $30 meal has now cost you over $230,” she said. “Would you go back? Probably not… The whole dining experience in Jack London, it’s just not going to happen because no one is comfortable to sit down and eat.”

Oakland is the county seat of Alameda County, whose District Attorney Pamela Price has faced criticism for being perceived as soft on crime with her progressive policies, including such measures and efforts as not trying juveniles as adults, seeking lower sentences and probation for more crimes, and doing away with special-circumstance sentencing enhancements. Oakland is also without a permanent police chief at the moment, and Ahmed said she’s “fed up” and disappointed with Democratic Mayor Sheng Thao and the City Council.

Oakland police and Kaiser Permanente split image

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“I feel like the police officers are a little bit more timid,” Ahmed said. “They’re not as aggressive as they should be. They don’t have authority in our city, so… we live in a lawless city. It’s really sad.”

Oakland’s troubles have gotten the attention of state leaders as well. California Gov. Gavin Newsom blasted the “completely unacceptable” rise in crime and announced a surge of 120 California Highway Patrol officers to Oakland the East Bay, leading to dozens of arrests this week on everything from auto theft to drug possession.

According to a recent CBS News report, Oakland crime statistics showed robbery (37%), burglary (24%) and motor vehicle theft (45%) were all up double digits year-over-year.

The office of Mayor Thao has told local outlets that reducing crime is a top priority for City Hall, pointing to funding for more police academies to train new officers and bringing back foot patrols.

Oakland is one of the bluest cities in the U.S.; Democrats dominate municipal leadership and President Biden took 80% of the vote in Alameda County in 2020. 

Requests for comment to the offices of Thao and Price were not returned.

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