Oakland flubs critical opportunity to combat retail theft

According to the City of Oakland, for years, it has taken a “decentralized” approach to the grant application process, which is part of the reason why staff bungled the opportunity to potentially secure millions of dollars in funding.  

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California plans to distribute over $267 million in grant funds to several cities to help combat organized retail theft, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office recently announced, making it the largest single investment of its kind. However, Oakland has been disqualified from receiving this critical funding, namely because it failed to apply by the grant deadline due to alleged technical difficulties. 

Despite clearly publicizing the deadline to ensure a “level playing field,” after legal review, the California Board of State and Community Corrections subsequently determined that “the City of Oakland did not meet the necessary requirements for a successful application submission and will therefore, not be eligible for funding consideration,” BSCC director of communications Tracie Cone emailed to SFGATE.

In June, the city’s Economic and Workforce Development Department worked with the Oakland Police Department and community partners to put together an application for the governor’s Real Public Safety Plan grant opportunity, the City Administrator’s office wrote in a statement to SFGATE. While OPD and community partners provided their application materials on time, the EWDD did not.


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“Obviously this outcome is unacceptable,” the statement continued. 

EWDD staff members did not tell SFGATE how much money Oakland would have secured, or what the technical difficulty entailed. 

According to the city’s statement, for years, Oakland has taken a “decentralized” approach to the grant application process, which is part of the reason why staff bungled the opportunity to potentially secure millions of dollars.  

Meanwhile, police departments in Fremont, Newark and Vacaville are poised to collectively receive about $7 million in funding to combat retail crime, among others receiving funding, BSCC documents show. Across the bay, San Francisco’s police department is set to receive a staggering $15.3 million, making it one of the most highly awarded agencies in the region. Funding from the organized retail grant program will be used to establish retail theft investigative units, install surveillance technology, ramp up arrests and work to curb vehicle and catalytic converter thefts, among other operations, according to the Sept. 12 news release from the governor’s office. 


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Now, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao’s office is scrambling to hire someone who will help streamline the grant application process so that this failure doesn’t happen again. “The City Administrator is working with the City’s hiring team to expedite the hire of that position now.”


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