Crime in Oakland, Restorative Justice, and Personal Experiences with Crime

Here’s a local news item of interest on several points. And then my history of being victim of crime.

ABC 7 News, 10 Feb 2023: Family of Oakland baker seeks ‘restorative justice’ for her death following robbery

The incident involved a woman, apparently a locally renowned baker, who was leaving a bank parking lot when another car blocked hers. A thief from the blocking car jumped out, smashed her passenger side window and stole something from inside. She tried to chase them down, but somehow got attached to the getaway car and was dragged 50 feet, bumping her head along the ground. She survived several days in a medically-induced coma, before expiring.

The first note of interest is that this happened at the Wells Fargo bank directly across the street from the 24 Hour Fitness gym that we went to regularly up until about three years ago. In fact, since we would go there on weekends, when the bank was closed, we usually parked in that same Wells Fargo parking lot.

The second note of interest is that the incident is strikingly similar to an earlier incident closer to home: Two Laptop Thieves Convicted In Oakland Killing Outside Montclair Starbucks, this link from November 2021, concerning a theft on December 31, 2019. This time the victim was working on his laptop at the Starbucks, and chased a man who grabbed it, got somehow entangled with the getaway car, and was dragged down the street, was injured and died. This was in Montclair Village, about 3 miles from our place.

(It’s true that Oakland has a reputation for crime, but so does LA; crime rates vary vastly from area to area within each city. There were areas of LA I would never drive through; there are areas of Oakland I generally avoid, even during the daytime. Most of the northern and northeastern parts of Oakland — Rockridge, Piedmont-adjacent, everything east of the 13 freeway — are relatively upscale and not so crime-ridden as other parts of the city. See map above, plotting homicides in 2022, from local paper The Mercury News. (On this map, we live near the R in Regional where it says “Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park,” and you can see where Montclair is to the northwest of us.) These trends are, of course, why the Montclair Village incident made the news; it was unusual.)

The third note of interest, and why I decided to post this, is that the article about this latest incident claims the family of the victim is interested in “restorative justice,” a term I only recently learned about, via Michael Shermer’s THE MORAL ARC (reviewed here) and then in a more recent book, Dacher Keltner’s AWE (reviewed here). From the article:

“We are really trying to orient towards her brilliant life, and that actually, she is not a person who would support the policing and imprisonment of the people who harmed her,” Harris said.

Family and friends say that Angel saw many instances of violence and theft as related to larger systemic issues around poverty and racism. In her passing, they are focusing on restorative justice, which they say was central to Angel’s teachings.

“Feels like absolutely an opportunity to stand in her values, and support the world that she wants. By actually showing that something different than actual policing and prosecution is possible, and is how we can have accountability,” Harris said.

I admire the concept of restorative justice, though I’m not sure that in such circumstances I could be so forgiving, or judicious. In this case, the perpetrators have not been caught, so how can the victim’s survivors begin? Though if the perpetrators are caught, perhaps I’ll hear about it from the local media, just as they followed up on the Montclair Village case.


My personal experiences with crime.

  • 1979. When I worked for LA County, in Reseda, and rode my bicycle from my single apartment in Northridge to work, one day my bicycle was stolen from where I’d tied it up in a corner of the parking lot at work.
  • 1987. While spending the night with a friend in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, my 1984 Honda Prelude was stolen out of his building’s parking lot. (The car was later found, stripped. Insurance covered buying a new car.)
  • Late 1980s. Living in a one-bedroom apartment on Hatteras in Tarzana, someone climbed into the front window (the window was open and they took out the screen), during the night while I was sleeping, and took all the cash out of my wallet. I reported it to the police; they came and took my report.
  • 1990s. Twice at the gym someone broke into my locker and took cash or credit cards, but not both, out of my wallet. (Despite my having combination locks.)
  • 2007. The first night of a stay in Key West, as we went out to dinner, someone broke into our hotel room and stole both of our laptops.
  • In Oakland, four or five years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night from strange lights shining up into our bedroom, and saw thieves breaking into a car across the street. I turned on our bedroom lights, to make it obvious to the thieves that someone was watching, and they fled. The owner of the car said a couple things had been stolen from his car, but he was so grateful to us that he brought us gifts – packages of meat, from where he worked – several times over the following year.

I’ve never been mugged. I’ve never been assaulted in any way. My home has never been invaded, save that one apartment incident. I think my experience is average for Americans living in big cities.


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