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Attacks in Oakland’s Chinatown spark concern, battle over police budget cuts

Surveillance photo show a suspect in a series in three assaults in Oakland.
Surveillance photos show a man suspected in three assaults in Oakland’s Chinatown.
(Oakland Police Department)

Oakland’s Chinatown has been hit with a series of attacks and thefts that have left the community on edge.

Video from a surveillance camera captures a Jan. 31 attack on an elderly man. The footage, taken from a camera at the corner of Harrison and 8th streets and time-stamped just after noon, shows a man in a hooded sweatshirt forcibly shoving his target, who is walking on the sidewalk. The older man falls face-first into the pavement, narrowly missing a metal bike rack, as his attacker walks past.

Police announced Saturday evening that they had identified a person of interest who has been in their custody since Feb. 1 for other reasons.

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Late Monday, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Yahya Muslim, 28, with assault, elder abuse and special allegations of causing great bodily injury and committing a crime while on release pending the resolution of another case, according to court records.

Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, said the assault is one of a string of attacks and thefts targeting the community.

Muslim has been charged in three of those incidents: The one captured on video, authorities said, as well as the assault of a couple later that day on the same block and another Feb. 1, after which he was held and placed on a “psychiatric hold,” the police report said.

Muslim had previously been convicted of assault in Alameda Superior Court in 2015 and 2020, court records show. He had not yet been sentenced for the 2020 conviction when he allegedly committed the assaults in Chinatown, prompting Alameda County prosecutors to file a special allegation that, if proved, would lengthen Muslim’s sentence if he is convicted again.

Capt. Bobby Hookfin of the Oakland Police Department said police have seen an increase in robberies in the area since the beginning of the year. The department did not respond to a Times request asking how many similar reports it has received in recent weeks, or how those numbers compare to previous months or years or other locations.

At a Wednesday press conference, Chan asked that the city bring back walking patrols, especially around the Lunar New Year holiday, and for additional surveillance cameras. Chan also requested that parking regulations be adjusted so visitors can park at street meters that are closer to shops.

Mayor Libby Schaaf, taking questions, said she would not be restoring the walking patrols and would “bring extra resources to this community as is appropriate.” She encouraged business owners to purchase their own security cameras.

Schaaf also singled out Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan over their summertime proposal to reduce the police budget by $25 million. Had that proposal passed, Schaaf said, “those walking officers would have been gone long ago.”

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That proposal didn’t move forward, but Schaaf’s administration in December outlined a $15-million budget reduction that would affect programs including Ceasefire, in which community groups, clergy and social workers work with police to reduce gun violence.

Bas, whose constituents include those in Chinatown, responded to Schaaf that evening on Facebook that her proposal would have reallocated funds from police overtime to community safety programs. She said it was December budget cuts that ended foot patrols throughout the city, and that council members were not consulted prior to the cut.

In another statement Saturday, Bas said she was partnering with the Oakland Chinatown Coalition and city police to “maintain a community-led presence on Chinatown streets” and focus police resources to address violent crime “while redirecting other resources to alternative responses to mental health, homelessness” and other forms of violence prevention.

Times staff writer Matthew Ormseth contributed to this report.


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