Oakland robberies target women unloading groceries

February 21, 2011 5:40:33 PM PST
There is a new warning for people in one Oakland neighborhood where at least half a dozen shoppers have been targeted leaving a grocery store, followed home, and robbed. Police say the robbers are looking for vulnerable people, usually older women, outside the Safeway store on Redwood Road, just off Highway 13.

The crimes start in the parking lot of the grocery store, but the armed robberies are taking place in front of the victim's homes either in their garage, driveway, or on the street as the victim is bringing in the groceries.

It has happened six times in the past month, Oakland police say the mode of operation is the same in just about every case. The victims are almost all older women leaving the Redwood Road Safeway in the Oakland Hills. The suspects follow the women home and then rob them at gunpoint in their own driveways.

"Citizens need to be aware that this is something that's happening at grocery stores and so any grocery store that someone is shopping in they need to be very vigilant and very aware when they're getting into their car," said City Councilwoman Libby Schaaf.

Schaaf represents the Redwood Heights neighborhood on the city council.

Here's how the crime usually works: a man in the store parking lot pretends to talk on a cell phone, when he spots a victim, he gets into a white SUV and he and a driver follow the woman home.

In this usually quiet neighborhood, frequent shoppers say they had no idea.

"You're not saying from this particular store? Is that right? Oh my gosh, my husband's going to really be upset now," said Lolita Moore as she found out about the crimes.

"It will just change my habit where if I have to come out at night, I'll bring one of my older sons with me," said Carolyn Harvey.

Police have increased patrols and set up undercover surveillance in the area and they now have a strong lead. A woman was robbed on Feb. 8 after leaving the Safeway. A neighbor's surveillance camera captured the incident and police now have an arrest warrant for one of the suspects.

"We have not been able to actually apprehend this person, but we are working around the clock to do so," said Schaaf.

It's usually happening in the late afternoon and early evening hours. The robbers are not going into people's homes, but they are getting away with their purses. That white SUV the suspects are driving had very distinctive racks on top of the vehicle.

As for Safeway, a spokeswoman for the company said this was the first Safeway has heard of the robberies and that the store takes safety of its customers very seriously.


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