A growing number of small businesses in Oakland, California, are refusing to take cash in hopes that thieves will leave them alone amid a surge in robberies, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.
While neighboring San Francisco passed an ordinance in 2019 forbidding stores from going cashless — citing the potential negative impacts on low-income citizens who may not qualify for credit cards — several Oakland businesses told the Chronicle that break-ins had stopped as a result of their decision to do so. Many of the businesses that spoke with the Chronicle are located in Oakland’s “Police Area 2,” which has seen 137 commercial burglaries so far this year, nearly triple the 52 such burglaries reported in 2021, and up slightly from the 135 reported by this time last year.
“We’d keep getting robbed for about $50, and the cost of fixing the door was more,” Haemi Lee, an employee at Asha Tea House, told the Chronicle, noting that the robberies had halted since the shop went cashless. Across the street, the neighboring Cafe Umami made the same decision roughly a year prior, due to thieves that would consistently rush for its cash register.
For the week of 6/5–6/11, 1 life was lost to violence, 26 instances of gunfire, 57 robberies, and 12 carjackings.
This year, OPD has investigated 46 homicides, 48 at this time in 2022.
520 firearms were recovered this year.
Working together, we can make Oakland Safer! pic.twitter.com/wDhuHIChM0
— Oakland Police Dept. (@oaklandpoliceca) June 12, 2023
The decision to go cashless can often hurt businesses’ bottom lines due to the fees associated with credit cards and other forms of cashless payment, the Chronicle reported. Chris Jackson, manager of Oakland’s Rockridge District Association, told the outlet that businesses could sacrifice 2.5% to 4% of their profits by going cashless.
“But what are they going to do?” Jackson asked, according to the Chronicle. “People are desperate. Businesses are trying to survive.”
Some Oakland store owners expressed concern that the decision to go cashless would harm low-income customers or those who otherwise did not have smartphones or credit cards, the Chronicle reported. Joel Digiorgio, co-owner of North Oakland pizzeria and beer garden Arthur Mac’s Tap and Shack, said he feels he’s betrayed his values regarding social equity by going cashless, but was left with no choice following a “brutal” series of robberies.
Digiorgio and his business partner had already spent $20,000 on security measures ranging from cameras, alarms, and panic switches to strobe lights and horns, and had even met with local officials and police captains, according to the Chronicle. However, shortly after a June 26, 2022 robbery where an employee was held at gunpoint, the store ultimately went cashless, prioritizing employee safety.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao on May 24th announced the arrest of nine suspects in connection to more than 30 robberies and detailed the city’s efforts to combat what it described as a “string of robberies.” These efforts included seven additional police officers dedicated to both foot patrol and traffic units, a restructuring of the public safety budget and increasing the size of the force from 700 to 730 over the next two years.
“Community safety is a priority for my Administration,” Thao said, according to the press release. “People who commit crimes in Oakland will be held accountable.”
Thao’s office and the Oakland Police Department did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.
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