EXCLUSIVE: Fed up with repeated break-ins and crime, Bay Area laundromat owners move out of CA

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: Fed up with crime, laundromat owners move out of CA
Fed up with repeated crime, a Bay Area family with laundromat business started by Raiders' Art Thoms moved out of California, says they won't return.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Fed up, and moving out. After dealing with repeated break-ins, theft, vandalism, and more, one family of longtime Bay Area business owners have had enough. They've decided to move their entire family picked up, and moved to Alabama.

What plays out at Derek Drake's Lake Merritt laundromat these days is so outrageous and frequent it almost feels like a heist movie.

"Three out of past four nights people have tried to get into my laundromat. Out of four nights... that's crazy!" exclaims Derek via Zoom.

Derek and his family, have owned laundromats in the East Bay for decades. Derek explained how his father, Raiders legend Art Thoms said to him "my teammates laughed at me when I started buying laundromats 45 years ago."

But it wasn't until this past year when the frequency of break-ins and crime seems to have exploded.

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"This is my sixth year of ownership (at Lake Merritt) and I can't remember a time in the first five years where anybody ever tried to break in," says Derek.

He shared a number of surveillance videos with ABC7 including one with shows a suspect ram a truck into another location's front window and steal the ATM.

"That was about a $30,000 bill on that one," says Derek who is thankful for insurance, but not for the headache.

Men can also be seen on another video, prying open the change machine days later.

"I got hit for $5,000 in just cash." Says Derek who smiles, thinking back to the whole ordeal. "It's pretty comical to watch them run across the street with a bag of quarters."

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Despite even going cashless video after video shows more break-ins, including a woman with a crowbar trying to pry open an office door.

Because the hits kept on coming, Derek who was born and raised in the Bay Area, along with his and entire family, decided to leave.

They say how the Bay Area handles crimes like these was one of the main reasons for their move to Alabama.

"We officially moved here in June. It's just hard-working people living their life."

Derek's family isn't alone. California's population fell by more than 180,000 in 2020 and has declined two years in a row. While the numbers of people who left the state are still a tiny percentage of the total population, Derek says many of his friends have plans to leave too, citing similar difficulties.

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Derek's family just sold their Berkeley laundromat and is contemplating the same for the Oakland location.

"I never imagined selling. Even though it's a terrible financial situation to take those offers I might."

His family is now building up their businesses in Alabama. When asked if he'd return anytime soon? A resounding, "no".

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