Business owners in Oakland Chinatown, California, are calling for more police presence after a string of what they believe to have been targeted burglaries against Asian merchants.
On Thursday morning, security footage captured a group armed with tools and a gun breaking into at least seven businesses, including restaurants and a salon, with most of the burglaries occurring on 8th Street between Webster and Franklin Streets.
On footage captured by Lounge Chinatown’s surveillance camera, burglars can be seen using a bolt cutter, a saw and a hammer to break down the restaurant’s fence and front door. It took the suspects about 14 minutes to get inside the restaurant to search for the cash register.
Darlene Wong, the social media manager at Lounge Chinatown, said the business lost roughly $36,000 in damages done and stolen money.
“It takes a toll. You have bills, staff, if someone is out sick because of COVID and then, you have a break-in and how do you recover from that?” Wong told NBC Bay Area.
According to Oakland police, the burglars hit more than 12 businesses throughout the city. Authorities also believe that the same group broke into an insurance office a block away on Harrison Street.
No arrests have been made so far.
On Friday morning, the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce held an emergency meeting for business owners to discuss security concerns.
Francis Lan, the president of the chamber of commerce, believes the “organized” crime is “like a flash mob.”
“They take everything, they’re everywhere and they come all at once, they come in groups,” he said.
Although merchants expressed appreciation for police presence during the day, they also called on patrols at night.
“We need the protection not only in daytime, we need protection during night time,” said New Oakland Pharmacy owner Albert Wong.
“I would like to see the OPD (Oakland Police Department) to have somebody patrol or stationed in Chinatown in the middle of the night, not just daytime,” Wong reiterated, according to ABC7 News.
How come the police did not come, I mean with that many break-ins? With that long duration in that area? How come no police respond? I’m very surprised on that. We are still waiting for an evidence tech to come out, that’s the latest, and until then we possibly have some more damages that we need to assess and accumulate before we can reset our restaurant to reopen. I think if we don’t collectively come together as a community and advocate, then it will be harder to get the support.
In response, the OPD reportedly said that they will be deploying additional officers to the most impacted areas.
“Patrol staff and field teams will be redeployed to these business districts where these burglaries are occurring in an effort to combat these burglaries from occurring,” Capt. David Elzey, a spokesperson for the OPD, said.
The Oakland Chinatown Improvement Council also vowed to work toward adding more nighttime security in the area.
Mayor Sheng Thao’s office also released a statement, noting their assistance in filing reports.
Our office has been in touch with the Oakland Police Department and Commanders at OPD have deployed additional officers to areas that have experienced an increase in burglaries. Additionally, our staff has been directly in touch with several of the businesses to assist them in filing reports. Finally, OPD encourages residents and business owners to consider installing security cameras and alarms. These technologies can both deter crime and help solve crimes after they occur.
The Oakland Chinatown Chamber Foundation has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help the affected businesses.
“Please help me by donating to the Oakland Chinatown Chamber Foundation, who will be helping these businesses get back on their feet,” organizer Arlene Lum wrote.