OAKLAND — Three stores located near the Oakland Coliseum closed down last Friday, reportedly due to ongoing issues with crime.
One business is a Starbucks location near the intersection of Hegenberger Road and Edgewater Drive. The other is a second Starbucks and a Subway store located in a plaza on 98th Avenue.
The small plaza on 98th Avenue was already covered with warning signs telling drivers to not leave valuables in their cars, but the problem have persisted. So security guard David Oliquino now alerts customers with a whistle in the parking lot.
“[Customer at pump] number 5, carry your bag, it’s smash and grab. [Pump] number 2, you’ve got to carry your bag. It’s smash and grab. They park behind you, sometimes, beside you,” warned Oliquino as he shouted alerts to customers.
Oliquino came up with the idea out of frustration because thieves were stealing bags even with drivers inside the cars.
“The criminals, I cannot touch them because of our law. They’re going to sue me. I’ve got sued already, one time,” said Oliquino.
Across from the gas station where Oliquino works, Starbucks and Subway shut down their stores. Workers at the Subway store said the owner is fed up with the repeated break-ins in the parking lot and inside the store.
Not too far away, over at the Starbucks near Hegenberger Road, the building owner told KPIX the closure is also due to repeated car break-ins.
In the same shopping plaza, Raising Cane’s closed its dining room earlier this year. It now operates as a drive-thru only to prevent break-ins.
“I feel horrible about them shutting down and running for the hills, just like the Oakland A’s,” said customer Sandra McGill.
Police officers were stationed at both parking lots on Friday afternoon, but workers said the patrols are only there for a few days a week. They said break-ins and robberies are still bad when the officers are gone.
Oakland police reported 11,991 car break-ins citywide from January 1 to November 12 this year. That’s a 32% increase compared to the same period last year.
“It does hurt the community. It makes the people that are not mobile, they can’t get to things easily. They would have to travel to go get to the things that are opened,” said shopper Laverne Oakley.
Oakland police said in addition to deploying officers at the plazas, they’re collaborating with the Port of Oakland and the airport to have more security guards in the area. They said auto burglaries are starting to decline. A city spokesman also said the city plans to deploy safety ambassadors to help East Oakland businesses.
As for Oliquino, he’ll keep blowing his whistle in the parking lot since customers are holding onto their bags.
“They’re happy about it. They always say thank you, thank you for reminding them,” said Oliquino.
Business owners said because the two shopping plazas are considered hot spots, they want officers to station there 24/7, not just on certain days or certain hours.
KPIX reached out to Starbucks but the company would not comment on why the two locations closed down. A Starbucks spokesman termed the closures “temporary,” but he would not say when the stores would reopen.