A television news crew in Oakland, California, was held up by armed robbers while interviewing the city’s director of violence prevention on steps of the City Hall, just hours after the police chief warned of a surge in crime amid law enforcement budget cuts.
The incident took place on Monday afternoon, when two suspects approached an NBC Bay Area news crew in an attempt to snatch the camera of the cameraperson filming the interview, the Oakland Police Department said in a statement to East bay Times.
After a scuffle, an “armed security officer pulled his firearm out, and directed the suspects to leave,” according to the police. The suspects then “immediately left the area without the camera” and were still at large. No injuries were reported.
The police also confirmed that Guillermo Cespedes, head of the city’s Department of Violence Prevention, was the person being interviewed by the newscasters, although he was not listed as one of the victims.
Just about bout three hours before the attempted robbery, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong held a press conference discussing the impact of a newly approved city budget, which redirects nearly $18 million from the Police Department to the Department of Violence Prevention.
“I am challenged today by the decisions that were made on Thursday around the budget for the city of Oakland, particularly for the police department,” Armstrong said, adding that he has concerns about shifting resources away from the police force at a time when violent crime is on the rise.
“We find ourselves in a crisis,” he said. “We find ourselves reeling from a weekend of violence where we have seen four homicides over a three-day period. It now has us currently at 65 homicides for the year—that’s a 90 percent increase compared to last year.”
Armstrong said he recently responded to a call from a shooting where a man was killed. He recalled walking through the neighborhood and a woman yelling from her window, “Do something about it.”
“Without the resources, it makes it challenging to make Oakland safe,” he said. “When the yellow tape is gone and when the streets are cleaned up, there is still hurt and pain and tragedy in our community.”
Armstrong spoke in the wake of the City Council passing a two-year budget that will reduce funding for police, and instead, use the money to fund “violence prevention” programs and social services.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (D), whose own budget proposal would have increased funding for the police, warned that 50 police officer positions will be left vacant, and plans to built additional police recruit academies will have to be scrapped with the funding cuts.
“Unfortunately, it also cuts 50 police officers who respond to Oaklanders’ 911 calls and enforce traffic safety. It also cuts much-needed future academies, which will significantly reduce police staffing and delay response to Oaklanders in their time of crisis,” Schaaf said in a press release following the council vote. “It will force our officers to work even more overtime shifts, which are expensive and unsafe for officers and residents alike.”