EXCLUSIVE: Oakland Little Saigon business owners fed up over daily crime, demand change

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ByDion Lim via KGO logo
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
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Business owners in Oakland's Little Saigon are so fed up with daily crime, they've banded together to make their voices stronger and to survive.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Robberies at gunpoint, arsons, break-ins and assaults. These are just some of the struggles business owners in Oakland's Little Saigon face regularly. They're so fed up, they've banded together to make their voices stronger together and as a way to survive.

Lele Quach owns a family-run Cam Huong restaurant in the 700 block of International Boulevard, right in the heart of Little Saigon. Through tears, she explains the stresses and terror of doing business these days.

"When did my life become so undervalued? My business is so undervalued? When was this community? Why is it so undervalued that we're getting pounded on and there's no help?"

Quach's feeling of despair is felt by many business owners.

"Crime is increasing exponentially on the daily. Every day, it's increasing, it's getting more violent more brutal," she continues.

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In every direction you turn in this neighborhood with more than 100 small, mostly refugee-owned shops, you'll see boarded up storefronts and earlier closing times.

Lynn Truong says she used to close her grocery store Sun Hop Fat at 8 p.m., but now she closes at 4 or sometimes 5:30.

"My workers have not enough income. They feel sad because they work less, they don't have enough income," she says in the parking lot of her business. She mentions how her business has suffered through multiple break-ins and robberies.

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Oanh Trinh owns Lucky 7 Cigarettes, which has been robbed seven times. Graffiti-covered plywood still covers the front windows. But that wasn't the worst of her woes.

"Some guy drove a truck and hit my store three or four times, and everything is broken," she says as she shows the tire marks that are still present on the store floor.

Thinh Le even sleeps on the floor of his Kim Viet Jewelry store every night after being broken into 10 times in one year.

"You feel like you're in jail of your own cell. You don't feel free. You're living in fear," he says. He has been vocal in the past but now has strength in numbers.

Nearly two dozen business owners have come together on a Monday morning to tell their stories and share surveillance videos of arsons, sideshows and attacks. It's an effort so the city will start paying attention.

"They have really encouraged and emboldened each other to take steps to say, if we don't tell our stories, nobody is going to know what we're going through," says Dr. Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, president of the Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce.

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"They come together today to hope their voice is not in vain their stories aren't in vain. That our elected officials are partners are also banding with us today to make sure they're taking the time off from work so it's not going to fall on deaf ears."

This effort is meant to bring attention to community issues, like how Oakland's Chinatown has done.

Chien Nguyen, owner of Quickly drink and snack shop, has witnessed countless robberies as customers pull up to pick up orders at his store.

"We want the same resources they have (in Chinatown) over here," he says -- things like better security cameras, patrols, police presence and attention.

His shop is across the street from Clinton Square Park, where he sees blight and vandalism with deter families from wanting to spend time in the area.

"A lot of theft, armed robbery, homelessness, we just want our community and neighborhood to be safe, where we can raise our kids and have our families come to the park and feel safe," says Nguyen.

During a time when business owners want to give up and close up shop... "Please don't leave, number one. I'm here, I hear you, I see you, I'll contact them, we're getting together to have a conversation on how can the city be better in investing in Little Saigon, but public safety as well," says Shen Thao, Oakland City Council President Pro Tem.

The community has started a fundraising page to help with high-definition cameras, beautification projects and other efforts to curb the violence and crime in the neighborhood.

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