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California issued $267 million in grants to fight organized retail theft. Oakland won’t see any of it

California issued $267 million in grants to fight organized retail theft. Oakland won’t see any of it

California leaders are throwing more than a quarter-billion dollars in state grants to more than four dozen state law enforcement agencies up and down the state to aid their fight against organized retail theft and other types of property crime.

Oakland police won’t see a cent of it.

In a stunning oversight, city officials failed to meet the deadline for submitting an application to the Board of State and Community Corrections. So they were not among the list of 34 police departments, seven sheriff’s offices and 13 district attorney’s offices that will be receiving about $267 million.

According to city spokesperson Sean Maher, Oakland’s Economic & Workforce Development Department did not submit the application on time after Oakland police and community partners put it together.

“Obviously, this outcome is unacceptable,” Maher said in a statement. “The city and department are reviewing everything that happened to ensure it does not happen again and will take appropriate action. EWDD leadership is already implementing internal protocol changes to prevent future issues like this one.”

The state money is meant to help police and prosecutors target the types of crimes that have bedeviled residents and businesses in recent years: from the mobs of thieves who storm retail outlets en masse, grab armfuls of merchandise and flee in moments, to the small teams cruising neighborhoods, working overnight to steal vehicles — or just the valuable bits of metal that can be obtained by cutting off a car’s catalytic converter.

The funds will benefit sheriff’s offices in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County, which will each receive more than $10 million, as well as police departments in San Francisco ($15.3 million), San Jose ($8.5 million), Newark ($986,000), Salinas ($3.6 million), Daly City ($8 million), Palo Alto ($5.2 million); San Ramon ($5.6 million), Vacaville ($4.4 million), Campbell ($5.9 million) and Fremont ($2.5 million).

District attorney’s offices in Santa Clara, Alameda, San Francisco, and Sonoma counties all will receive grants of $2.05 million.

“This grant gives the DA’s Office the funds to establish a new prosecution unit that’s dedicated strictly to organized retail theft,”  said Patti Lee, a spokesperson for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. “It will streamline everything. To have a dedicated team is huge, because they have relationships they’ll develop with their law enforcement partners, and it gives us more data to connect incidents and ultimately, more of an ability to stop this.”

The funds also are intended to help police agencies crack down on vehicle and catalytic converter thefts, which have become an epidemic in many cities.

Two cities with high-profile retail scenes — Walnut Creek and Richmond — did not receive funds from the state. City officials in Walnut Creek said Friday that they did not know why they were turned down on their application. Richmond police officials could not be reached for comment.

“It’s hard to tell exactly why certain applications did not get funded,” Tracie Cone, a spokesperson for the Board of State and Community Corrections, wrote in an email. “There’s only a finite amount of money, and the applications go to a rating committee which reads them all and scores them based on how well they meet the . . .  criteria.”

Oakland’s failure to submit a proposal brought an angry reaction from the city’s chapter of the NAACP, as well as neighborhood and church leaders.

“We are shocked, perplexed and furious that the City of Oakland forfeited millions of dollars of crime prevention funding by missing a state grant deadline,” read a statement from NAACP Oakland president Cynthia Adams, Chinatown Community Leader Carl Chan and Bishop Bob Jackson of the Acts Full Gospel Church.

The statement added that the failure “is a devastating blow to citizens and small businesses who have been clamoring for crime prevention measures, which could’ve been funded by the millions of dollars in grants offered by the state. This money could’ve been used for extra police patrols, squad cars and automated license readers to track down perpetrators of crimes.”

Adams, Chan and Jackson said they have demanded that the city declare a public safety emergency and said the “debacle is clear evidence” that “our elected officials and government staff have dropped the ball because they were not focused. And they must be held accountable.”

By contrast, San Francisco officials were pleased. Organized retail theft — often given extra publicity by viral videos — is a vexing problem, and the city has seen departures of several high-profile stores.

“This is critical support to help us expand on our efforts to tackle retail theft,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “Retail theft hurts both small and large businesses, and it’s dangerous and threatening for workers and residents.”

San Francisco officials announced that the grant money headed toward the police department will be used to combat staffing shortages, by funding more personnel, overtime for patrol officers, and purchases of vehicles and other equipment. The department also said it will also purchase automated license plate readers to help identify suspects in retail theft crimes.

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In Palo Alto, a grant worth more than $5 million will go toward extra patrol officers in retail areas such as downtown and the Stanford Shopping Center. Palo Alto police also said that the money will help install technology on patrol cars that would give officers the ability to remotely place GPS tags on suspect vehicles.

San Jose police did not say how they plan to spend the money they are receiving. A spokesperson said the agency will share their plans at a later date.