Oakland police are sounding the alarm about an increase in smash-and-grab robberies occurring while people are driving their cars.

Thieves are brazenly approaching occupied cars that are either stopped in traffic or waiting on the street, then breaking passenger-side windows and grabbing visible items, according to a new Oakland Police Department memo.

Overall, robberies in Oakland have risen by 32% this year so far — a total of 715 incidents in 2024, compared to 540 over the same time period last year, per KTVU. However, at the same time, burglaries have decreased by nearly 50%, with 1,853 incidents compared to the 3,480 in the same period last year.

It seems that thieves are more tending toward crimes of opportunity involving cars, regardless of whether they have occupants still inside.

OPD said it is "actively investigating and tracking this current trend," as well as deploying more officers in hotspots. But police didn’t say whether these robberies were armed, or which neighborhoods were being targeted specifically.

KPIX talked to one woman who lived in Highland Park in East Oakland who was the victim of one of these smash-and-grabs. She told KPIX that “the whole thing happened in 10 seconds,” and the robber made off with her purse, although she was uninjured.

The woman added that when she called the police, it took a long time to get through to anyone, and when she did, she was told that there were 200 pending calls ahead of her, including some reports of the same suspects.

Oakland’s emergency response system has been overtaxed for years — both 911 wait times and police response times have long been an issue for the city, per the Standard. In 2023, police response times were so bad that the state reportedly threatened to withhold funds if they didn’t improve.

Meanwhile, it's been well over a year since Oakland has had a permanent chief of police after former Chief LeRonne Armstrong was removed from the job amid an internal affairs scandal, as we previously reported.

The rise in crime generally in Oakland has led to recall campaigns against both Mayor Sheng Thao and District Attorney Pamela Price, both of whom took office in 2023.

Related: Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao Thumbs Nose at Police Commission, Says She Will Not Attend Forum With Candidates

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