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Kaiser tells workers to avoid going out for lunch in downtown Oakland due to crime risk

Oakland crime prompts Kaiser to tell workers to stay in office for lunch
Oakland crime prompts Kaiser to tell workers to stay in office for lunch 03:21

OAKLAND -- One of the largest employers in Oakland is now recommending employees eat their lunch in company buildings over safety concerns.

Kaiser Permanente owns multiple buidlings in Oakland and employs thousands of workers. A company memo to downtown workers recommended they bring their own food or have it delivered. Robberies of Kaiser workers apparently led to the alert.

"I'll eat and walk around, do a few laps but, after those memos, I'm a little hesitant," said Kaiser employee Daniel Rabino, who works at the medical center on Broadway. "There's a lot of break-ins in the garages over here, cars set on fire, windows broken."

He said his car now has a kill switch to prevent it from being stolen from the Kaiser garage.

"We have the armed security now walking around, patrolling," Rabino said. "They have a hotline. (Employees) can call the hotline. They can get walked to the car if they don't feel safe and have security go with them."

Other large Oakland corporations are also providing security escorts. Clorox and Blue Shield of California told CBS News Bay Area they hired additional secuirty guards to walk workers to BART, parking garages and restaurants.

Blue Shield of California wrote in a statement "We are providing various options for when they come into the office, including ride-sharing services, paid parking and private security. "

"Downtown looks like a ghost town. So it's very disheartening," said Robert Mendez, who was born in Oakland.

Many people noticed downtown was very quiet on Friday during the lunch hour. They said that, while they understood why Kaiser was recommending workers stay inside, they worry more restaurants will close.

"It's a very sad situation because people should be be able to get out and smell the fresh air during lunch time," Mendez said.

"I don't really agree with it. I'm not going to be too fearful to go out and get lunch," said downtown worker Mario Figueroa.

Kaiser released a statement reading in part "Kaiser Permanente is committed to ensuring the safety and security of our employees and physicians across all of our locations. We continually monitor our environments for concerns, review our practices and strengthen them wherever possible."

While not everyone agrees with Kaiser's recommendation to avoid going outside during lunch, most people agree Oakland is experiencing a public safety crisis.

"It's like the city has fallen off a cliff," Mendez said.

"When it comes to crime, it's unhinged," said Figueroa.

Rabino said he supports his employer and thinks it wise to warn workers about safety concerns.

"It's never been this bad. It's only getting worse. So hopefully, it gets better," Rabino said.

Kaiser says it's committed to Oakland. A spokesperson said the national headquarters will stay in the city.

The office of Mayor Sheng Thao released a statement that read in part "Oakland is making progress in addressing community safety in our business districts where many of Kaiser's facilities are located. There are more police officers and safety ambassadors on the street than anytime in the past two years. At the end of last year, Oakland experienced significant reductions in property crime in business districts across the city."

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