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Rising Crime Near Oakland Homeless RV Camp Has Local Business Owners Concerned

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- Small businesses next to an Oakland city-run homeless RV encampment on Friday said rising crime in the area has them worried about their worker and customer safety.

The so-called "Safe RV Parking Lot" is located near the corner of High Street and Howard Street just outside of the Fruitvale District.

"As a business owner, I don't feel safe here anymore. And I need the city to do something about it," said Kevin Kim, owner of High Street Car Wash and Oil Change.

Kim provided KPIX 5 with a surveillance video of a recent attempted break-in. The video from August 30 showed two men use a stolen truck with a lumber rack to ram the car wash lobby to try to steal an ATM machine.

"That same truck was found two days later. I found that truck in the RV encampment and it was stripped," said Kim. "Terrible. I'm heartbroken, you know? That cost me $20,000 in damage. And for a business that's already barely making it, to shell out another $20,000, it's ridiculous."

He said that damage was on top of the weekly harassment of his customers and workers get from some of the homeless individuals.

"Twice, I had people during the daytime, they were here, they were graffitiing on my building. My employees asked them, 'Hey, can you please not do that?' And then they pulled out a switchblade on them, you know? And they started chasing them around with the switchblade. One of [the employees] quitted because they can't handle it anymore," said Kim.

He blamed mismanagement of the city-run RV encampment next door for many of the crime-related problems.

As a result, he said business has dropped by 35 percent since the city set up the encampment a few years ago.

"If I have to estimate, I've probably lost close to $1 million in the last three to four years," said Kim.

He is not alone. Other nearby businesses have complained of the same problems to KPIX 5. The Home Depot in the area has threatened to shut down. Now they hire off-duty police officers to work security to reduce thefts.

The owners of Bay Island Gymnastics have been trying to move. A few others have already left, including Oakland United Beerworks.

"I've asked the businesses here, you've got to come together and file a lawsuit against the city for our negligence to enforce the rules," said Oakland District 5 Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents this area.

He said he, too, is fed up. He can't get the city departments to enforce existing policies.

"It's frustrating for me as it is for all the residents here and businesses," said Gallo.

Neighbor Carrie Anderson provided KPIX 5 with police logs she obtained from the police department. The record showed there were 21 calls for police service at the RV encampment in the first seven months this year.

Outside of the city-run encampment, there's an illegal encampment next to Home Depot. In addition, dozens of RVs and cars are also parked along Alameda Avenue.

Additionally, there was a total of 508 calls for police service in the neighborhood in the first seven months of 2021. The record showed 72 calls from the same neighborhood in the first seven months in 2014 when Anderson first moved to the neighborhood.

She said that's seven times more than the normal calls for service, before the homeless moved in.

As for Kim, he said homelessness is not a crime. He acknowledged there are a lot of good people who live in the RV encampment. He wants the police and city to go after those who constantly cause problems for the nearby businesses.

"If this continues, in another year or two, I'll be out of business. My father built this car wash in 1998 from the ground up. I employ 65 Oakland residents here. And I've had to get rid of a lot of employees over the years because my business is just going down and down. And the next thing you know, I'm going have to close," said Kim.

KPIX 5 reached out to the Oakland citywide communications director on the issue Friday morning. There was no response as of Friday evening on what or how the city plans to work with the businesses to stop the problems.

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