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Crime-weary Oakland small business owners plea for help from city leaders

Crime weary Oakland small business owners plea for help from city leaders
Crime weary Oakland small business owners plea for help from city leaders 04:12

OAKLAND -- A different day brings the same story for many downtown Oakland businesses just trying to keep their income coming. 

The threats, harassment, stolen income, even defecation on their property, and all the damage they are constantly cleaning up is starting to hit a breaking point for business owners in their effort to keep going strong.

The latest incident at Tay Ho Oakland Restaurant & Bar brought an unruly person into their restaurant, who threatened and harassed staff and customers inside.

"Every day, it's like what's next," said Denise Huynh, the owner of Tay Ho Oakland Restaurant & Bar. "If someone is walking through my front door, I am in that mode of who is going to walk in, who is going to come in and give us trouble again because this has happened so often."

Huynh's mother owns the restaurant with her and spends her time cooking up their Vietnamese dishes in the kitchen. The family-owned restaurant has been here for 13 years. The colorful décor brings some light to the concrete jungle downtown but even those efforts get destroyed.

"I had a cool artist that did some work, he spent weeks working on it," said Huynh. "It was a piece of art. And someone just went over and graffitied over it. It just makes me feel sick."

On top of property damage, threatening behavior has come face to face with Huynh's diners and her staff.

"Police didn't come till 3 or 4 o'clock," said Huynh. "And it happened at 12. They didn't come back until after midnight and I get a call saying that an officer is outside my door and that I could come out to do a report and this was after midnight."

Huynh said she cannot get police to respond for immediate help.

"I was on the phone for 45 minutes to try to get someone to come out, that's how long it took," explained Huynh. "And I was lucky that I got through because it has happened before that I call the police and it goes straight to voicemail and that was the emergency number."

Born and raised in Oakland, every time this happens is another hit to business and their stamina to keep going.

"I am just a small business owner trying to make a living," stated Huynh. "I pay taxes. And I think I deserve to feel safe and protected in my own city and my own business."

That statement rings true for other businesses that neighbor Tay Ho.

Wawa Thai Food is constantly sharing on social media, similar scenes on their surveillance videos. After a break-in in early December, the same thing happened in January. The owner tells KPIX that they are worried if they get hit during the day when people are working and dining.

Asha Tea House recently shared images of their third break-in in less than a year. Although the owner says police showed up quickly to their calls, they are struggling to keep up with the rising rate of crime.

Pim Soithong, who co-owns Pintoh Thai with her husband, said it is a similar battle for them.

"On Monday, somebody broke in on that door," explains Soithong. "We still have the plywood up. My team sometimes is afraid to come into work. One time they even walk in and take the cash and we were working right there. And he or she took the cash and just left. Nobody cares."

While Soithong works to serve their Oakland community, they feel the city has failed to serve them.

"It happens like almost every month," says Soithong. "And when we try to get help from the police. We know they are busy, but we call them for support, and they never show up."

The shared cultures of Oakland are the fabric of this vibrant city. But for some small business owners, like Soithong, they are reaching their breaking point.

"We cannot live like this," says Soithong. "We might have to close the business, or we might have to go somewhere else."

It is a state of living in fear for what is next as they try to make a living, together they stand with a plea for help.

"It's frustrating doing business in Oakland, it is just so frustrating," says Huynh. "I refuse to give up on this town because this is home to me, but something must be done about it."

KPIX reached out to the Oakland Police Department for comment on their response times, at the time of filing this report, the department has not responded. Oakland's District 2 City Council leaders did not respond to comments at the time of filing this report.

In a request for a conversation with Mayor Sheng Thao, a spokesperson of the Mayor's Office shared this statement:

"Mayor Thao shares the frustration of small business owners impacted by crime. Since she's been in office, we have been meeting with business owners and local community groups to collaborate on solutions to help them recover and are in touch with our public safety agencies on how we can better respond. She is also working with community organizations to address the causes of crime to ultimately prevent it from occurring."

KPIX also attempted multiple times to contact Oakland's Economic & Workforce Development Office. The phone number takes you to a voicemail that is full.

Oakland small businesses looking for support for damage caused by civil unrest can find more information on the California Department of Insurance face sheet: The Oakland Office can be reached at 415-538-4500.

While the Small Business Administration does not have assistance programs for business owners specifically impacted by crime in Oakland, they do have local Resource Partners that are always available to Oakland's small businesses looking to grow or recover from a setback:

East Bay SBDC - Northern California Region
AnewAmerica Women's Business Center - Oakland
East Bay | SCORE
All of SBA's funded resource partners offer free and low-cost counseling and classes for business owners on a variety of topics.

Other support for small businesses impacted by crime can find support with the Neighborhood Business Assistance (NBA) Program

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