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Oakland Business Owners Struggle to Recover from Pandemic Amid Crime Uptick

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Oakland is now moving to hire more police officers in hopes of reversing a dramatic rise in homicides. But with crime comes other problems, and Oakland business leaders say it is hurting their recovery.

"Someone slipped through our back door and went through our cash register," says Lilly Ayers, owner of Queen Hippie Gypsy. "As well as grabbing our laptops, all of our laptops for our

Ayers opened Queen Hippie Gypsy about three years ago, and it has taken every bit of energy to keep going. First the pandemic, then damage during the 2020 protests, now a recent hot-prowl burglary. And on top of those challenges, there's a feeling that customers are nervous.

"I believe that many people are afraid. Afraid of going out of their house," Ayers says. "Even in their own communities."

"One of the things we talk about all the time, both in our organization, and as our five chamber coalition, our one Oakland coalition, is the importance of our business ecosystem," says Barbara Leslie, President of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

While the City Council was voting to recruit more police, Oakland business leaders held a meeting of their own, warning that crime threatens to stall the rebound from the pandemic.

"What's stopping us is this perception, and this reality, of increased issues around public safety," Leslie says. "And our employers are very concerned about putting their employees in harm's way."

For business owners like Ayers, that means staying positive, and pushing ahead.

"So we've been taking so many hits here in Oakland. And yet we still stand here," Ayers says. "And our goal is to continue to be here and persevere. But it's tough, and it's been challenging."

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