4 Oakland Restaurants Hit by Weekend Robberies

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:27:00 AM

Four takeover robberies in Oakland last weekend reflect a continuing crime trend in the East Bay. 

The Oakland crimes, which occurred at a nail salon in the 6600 block of Telegraph Avenue and Full Moon Seafod restaurant on MacArthur Boulevard on Sunday, and at Mama Rosa’s Pizza on High Street on Saturday and Shattuck Avenue’s Nomad Cafe on Friday, are the continuation of an eight-robbery string that began in July and continued through August, including the robbery of Rockridge’s Pasta Pomodoro restaurant on Monday, Aug. 18. The crimes bring the summer total of takeover robberies in Oakland to 13. 

That number does not include the series of robberies that occurred across Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville back in March, April and May, when Berkeley suffered from robberies by “the Lone Gunman.” 

“We have not experienced any takeover-style robberies that may be connected with this series or couple of series,” said BPD spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. “We are concerned about these incidents, in particular their proximity to our south border.” 

Although the current series of takeovers has yet to touch Berkeley, the Nomad Cafe, located at 6500 Shattuck Ave., lies just south of the Berkeley border. 

On Friday at 10:05 p.m., just after the cafe had closed, two masked men, one carrying a gun, forced the two employees and two customers into a back closet while the suspects took money from the open safe. 

According to Justin Garland, general manager of the wireless Internet cafe, this is the first time in five years of operating that the restaurant has been robbed in this fashion, but the incident has not slowed business at all and Nomad employees have dealt “amazingly well” with the robbery, he said. 

“This weekend was one of the busiest I can remember,” Garland said. “It’s just been an outpouring of support from community members checking in on us. It certainly hasn’t scared anyone away.” 

At 1 p.m. on Monday, the cafe was nearly full of lunchtime customers. A reporter from Channel 2 News also appeared while Garland was speaking with The Planet. 

Garland said the Oakland police “were terrific,” arriving on the scene within four minutes of the phone call. The police dealt swiftly and efficiently with one incident in what is “obviously an epidemic,” Garland said. 

The string of Oakland crimes “makes me introspective about the bigger picture of what’s going on,” he said. “None of us here are taking it personally, even though it was an obvious invasion of our personal space and security. In a weird way, it makes us feel more connected to the other businesses in the community that have been robbed ... It doesn’t make me feel less safe or like this is a bad neighborhood.” 

Berkeley has seen sporadic takeover-style robberies this summer, and Sgt. Kusmiss said Berkeley police have been providing commercial districts with extra patrols to help prevent the recurrence of such crimes. In addition, she said that Berkeley robbery detectives regularly collaborate with Oakland police to discuss crime trends. 

Berkeley police warn businesses to be wary of suspicious cars or people lingering near their building and encourage businesses to report such activity to the BPD. Because takeover robberies typically occur near the end of the day when cash registers are fullest, police also warn business to be particularly mindful from late afternoon until closing time.