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Local leaders and civil rights activists are blaming Oakland’s crime policies for popular West Coast fast-food chain In-N-Out pulling out of the Bay Area city.
In-N-Out announced last week it would be closing its Oakland location in March, due to rampant violent crime and theft. It is the first time in the chain’s 75-year history that it’s been forced to close one of its restaurants. The company told FOX Business that regular car break-ins, property damage, theft and armed robberies of customers and employees led to the decision to shut down.
“We feel the frequency and severity of the crimes being encountered by our Customers and Associates leave us no alternative,” Denny Warnick, the chief operating officer at In-N-Out, said in a statement.
Alameda County Republican Party Treasurer Utkarsh Jain told FOX Business that the closure was a sign the city and the state more broadly needed to move beyond Democratic leadership. Oakland, which is the county seat of Alameda, is one of the bluest cities in the country.
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“It’s quite disappointing, and, for sure, it has an economic impact because you lose jobs and the tax base and everything like that there,” he said. “People like In-N-Out as a food chain. People from all across the country come over to enjoy a Double-Double, you know? So it’s sad to see, but it’s not surprising.”
“It’s really a degradation of the Bay Area,” added Jain, who at age 21 is running for a State Assembly seat. “We all see this happening in San Francisco, and it just continues to spread across the Bay Area and California in general, thanks to the Democrats and their policies.”
Selika Thomas, who is running as a nonpartisan for the city’s at-large City Council seat this year and was born and raised in Oakland, told FOX Business the area around the restaurant was a place for criminals to prey on tourists, as the establishment has been a popular stopping point near the city’s major airport.
“Criminals do not fear minimal consequences,” Thomas said. “So if they don’t have any consequence, then they’re going to continue to do the crimes. We have to have people in office that are tough on crime.”
Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price has faced local recall efforts since she took office last year, not unlike the successful one against nearby former San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin. Price ran for the office on a progressive platform that includes 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.
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Price has said she was elected on a mandate of addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system and has rejected the notion she is “soft on crime.” Her office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Thomas is running for the at-large councilmember seat currently occupied by Rebecca Kaplan because she’s fed up. She said the reputational damage to the city from such stories about Oakland was “disheartening” and criminals were taking advantage of overly lenient laws.
“People are just taking advantage of them because it’s worth doing a crime. I mean, if you’re only going to get a couple of months for stealing an ATM or doing a robbery, or getting let right out, of course somebody is going to continue to keep doing it. It’s common sense,” Thomas said.
Kaplan’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Even Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., whose district is in Alameda County, sounded off last week after a video went viral of an Oakland carjacker leaving a 2-year-old alone in the street.
“This is not normal. Soft on violent-crime prosecutors are letting too many dangerous people threaten our kids,” he wrote on X.
According to CBS News report, Oakland crime statistics showed robbery (37%), burglary (24%) and motor vehicle theft (45%) were all up double digits year-over-year.
Civil rights leader Bob Woodson says Oakland is “reaping the consequences” of the city’s “failed” liberal policies from the past decade.
“[T]he same problems that we’re experiencing at the border where you catch and release, that characterizes how policing is being done in some of these cities. You catch criminals, and you release them,” he told FOX Business.
“You have a combination of progressive DAs that are not really prosecuting people. You have a city council and public officials who have been demonizing the police over the past few years, cutting back on budgets. As a consequence, police are not aggressive in enforcing the laws in some of these troubled communities. The result has been an escalation in crime,” he added.
Woodson is founder and president of The Woodson Center, a nonprofit in the Washington, D.C., area that works with grassroots leaders across the nation in “troubled neighborhoods to increase public safety, spur upward mobility, and inspire racial unity in America.”
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Social justice activists and liberal prosecutors in cities like Oakland are “not listening” to the people in their communities, he said. Their policies have led to more violent crime and businesses fleeing their cities.
He pointed to a Gallup poll released during the height of the racial riots in 2020 which found 81% of Black Americans want the same or more police presence in their neighborhoods.
Those pushing for defunding the police “don’t have to live with the consequences of their advocacy because they live in safe and secure communities that are guarded,” he remarked.
“Oakland is just one example,” Woodson continued. “This restaurant has pulled out and others will do the same. Unless something is done to arrest this growing cancer that’s spreading throughout the country.”
Reached for comment, the Oakland Police Department touted its efforts to lower crime in the surrounding neighborhood in the previous year, citing a 23% drop in auto burglaries.
“In 2023, we saw a 23% reduction in auto burglaries in the area compared to the previous year. In June 2023, OPD strategically deployed additional resources to both corridors as part of the ongoing crime plan. There was a significant decline in auto burglaries, thefts, and commercial burglaries from July 22, 2023, to December 10, 2023, which is illustrated in the graph below. During this time frame, we saw an increase in robberies by two incidents, from eight to ten,” the Police Department said in a statement to FOX Business.
“OPD remains committed to maintaining this positive downward trend in collaboration with local businesses,” a spokesperson added.
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Democratic Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao didn’t respond to FOX Business’ request for comment. She sent a statement to KTVU last week about the In-N-Out closure that she had prioritized putting more police in that area, but more work was necessary to secure “this tourist gateway into Oakland.”
FOX Business’ Pilar Arias contributed to this report.