Oakland locals blame homeless encampment for city removing traffic lights

California’s growing homelessness crisis has created a unique traffic problem in one city facing a spike in crime.

The city of Oakland responded to the high crime and theft near one large homeless encampment by altering traffic safety at a busy intersection. Amid repeated tampering with electrical boxes at the intersection of E. 12th Street and 16th Avenue in Oakland, officials removed the traffic lights altogether.

But there were many raised eyebrows over the surprising replacement for the light.

“Oakland has removed the traffic lights from one intersection and replaced them with 4-way stop signs due to people stealing copper and then tampering with an electrical box,” KPIX reported.

At the corner of the intersection, Le’s Auto Body & Engine Repair has operated for more than 25 years. Its owner, Tam Le, told KPIX, “It’s just telling us that the city is giving up on us.”

“The city did try to fix the traffic light at least a few times. But once they fixed it, normally within a week or so, it will go out again,” said Le, who explained how the nearby homeless population is stealing power from city electrical boxes.

“If you really want to fix the stop sign, I think you really have to clean up this homeless encampment,” Le said. “Many businesses already closed down on E. 12th St. And I don’t know how long we’re going to be here. Because once they move to our side of the sidewalk, we will be gone.”

Despite attempts to place heavy cement blocks on top of the boxes to thwart the would-be thieves, the tampering and thefts continued, one city spokesperson told the news station.

“This is a brand new solution to a problem that’s taken many forms here,” neighbor Mason Young told the outlet, noting how dangerous it had become to drive through the particular intersection and how a truck had run through the location last year and crashed into the fence at Le’s shop.

“We gotta stop just putting band-aids on things. Although, a band-aid is better than bleeding out,” Young said.

The nearby homeless encampment continues to grow in size despite the city’s attempt to clear it out. It currently stretches three blocks on E. 12th Street, between 17th and 14th Avenues.

“Violent crime in Oakland increased 22% this year, according to the most recently available police data, which also show a nearly 10% increase in commercial burglary,” Fox News reported. “In September, over 200 business owners shut down their stores to strike against the government’s handling of public safety amid rising crime. The protest was held days after city officials admitted to missing a deadline to apply for state funding to fight retail theft.”

On social media,  comments seemed to sympathize with the locals while blasting the city for not effectively handling the core issue.

Frieda Powers

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