Oakland merchants won't let guard down


On August 18th, Pasta Pomodoro became the 14th restaurant hit by armed robbers in Oakland since mid-July. Manager Marco Ditano says he was impressed with the police response.

"I felt that they really managed the situation. They showed a sense of urgency that was needed," said Ditano.

On September 2nd, the rash of robberies stopped after the K & T Nails and Spa salon was held up.

Three people were arrested that night, including Shaunte Bostick, whom police say drove the getaway car. In all, 20 businesses were robbed during this last series of robberies. 17 restaurants and three other stores. It's been almost three weeks since the arrests and the rash of robberies has stopped. Police believe they caught the right people.

"We're still continuing investigating trying to link them with the other robberies, but I think we are very confident that we have the people that are responsible for the takeover robberies in custody," said Officer Jeff Thomason, an Oakland Police Department spokesman.

That includes two others arrested in August for the armed robberies of the El Torero Taqueria and a tea salon. Investigators believe all five suspects belonged to the same ring.

Sarah Lamb heads the Rockridge Merchants Association. She says despite the arrests, her members won't let their guard down. The group has hired private security guards to patrol the Rockridge neighborhood. They're also holding merchant watch training classes in Chinatown.

"Robbery suppression, how to trust our gut in the event, somebody out of place on the street, how to look out for each other," said Lamb.

Police are not letting their guard down either. Officers from narcotics and traffic were assigned to patrol duties after the spike in homicides which have now reached 102. Other officers, many on overtime were added to districts where the restaurant takeovers were occurring. Thomason says the redeployment will continue. In the fall, many will go back to their original units when they're replaced by 73 new officers who will graduate from the academy,

In Rockridge, merchants say the arrests are good news, but they're still going to be vigilant.

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