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**Oakland Mayor Introduces Five After Five Program to Address Safety Concerns**

In an effort to tackle the issue of vehicle break-ins and enhance safety in downtown Oakland, Mayor Sheng Thao has unveiled the Five After Five program. The pilot initiative allows individuals working or visiting the area to park their vehicles in a secure parking garage at a flat fee of $5, available seven days a week. The announcement of this program was made during the Mayor’s State of City address in October as part of a broader range of safety initiatives.

The primary objective of the Five After Five program is to provide a safe and affordable parking option for business owners, employees, and visitors frequenting downtown Oakland’s restaurants and shops. By encouraging more people to be present in the area, the Mayor believes that increased foot traffic will serve as an effective deterrent against criminal activities.

According to Sean Sullivan, owner of The Port bar and Fluid 510 event space in downtown Oakland, the fear of car window break-ins is a significant concern for businesses. Sullivan, who has been a resident of the city for over two decades, acknowledges the negative impact that crime has on his establishment. He laments that despite putting in considerable effort to attract customers, their experience can be marred by the unfortunate event of returning to their vehicle to find a broken window.

Under the Five After Five program, individuals can park their vehicles at the Franklin Plaza Parking Garage on 19th Street and Franklin Street for a fixed rate of $5 during weekday evenings after 5 p.m., as well as throughout the entire day on weekends. To accommodate the extended parking hours, the garage will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday. The new security personnel funded by the city will ensure the safety of visitors and their vehicles by actively preventing break-ins.

One crucial factor motivating the implementation of this program is the alarming surge in crime rates across various categories in Oakland. While homicides have remained a notable exception, overall crime has risen by 24% compared to last year. Home break-ins have seen a staggering 71% increase, and vehicle thefts have reached a concerning number of 12,405 in 2023, as reported by the Oakland Police Department. Car break-ins have also spiked by approximately 35%, surpassing 11,600 incidents this year.

Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Union, argues that while alternative violence prevention programs have been introduced, they have not been successful in addressing the foundation of public safety in the city. Donelan points out that the reduction of 91 police officer positions and the subsequent redirection of funds to these programs coincided with the rise in crime rates. Instead, he calls for increased support for the police department, as current staffing levels are critically low and affect their ability to respond promptly to distress calls.

Contrary to Donelan’s viewpoint, Sean Sullivan sees the Five After Five program as a positive step forward. He acknowledges the frustrations regarding the current state of safety in Oakland but believes that these are essential incremental measures. Sullivan hopes that the commitment displayed by the city and the Mayor in implementing initiatives like this indicates their dedication to transforming the situation for the better.

The Five After Five pilot program builds upon previous efforts to improve safety in downtown Oakland, such as the deployment of security cameras through the Shop Safe investments in 2022. Additionally, Oakland introduced the Corridor Safety and Ambassador initiative during the holiday season in key commercial districts, including downtown Oakland, the Airport/Hegenberger corridor, and the Fruitvale. To ensure enhanced safety during the upcoming holidays, the Oakland Police Department is planning to increase patrols and deploy specialized units in downtown and other neighborhood business districts.

The Five After Five program is scheduled to commence on October 31 and will continue throughout the holiday season. Oakland intends to evaluate the program’s success and make recommendations for future implementation after the holidays. More information about the Five After Five program is available online.

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