In recent weeks, Oakland’s Chinatown district has experienced what some locals have described as an epidemic of crime. A significant number of assaults and violent, armed robberies have taken place in and around the shops in the area on an almost nightly basis. On Monday night, the owner of a liquor store had apparently had enough. He saw a woman being robbed of her camera and purse on the street corner outside of his shop. When the assailant violently knocked the woman to the ground, the shop owner grabbed his handgun and charged out onto the street, ordering the assailant to fall back. The robber jumped into a vehicle and escaped with the store owner firing four shots. The story had a very sad ending when the police arrived and decided to arrest the owner of the liquor store. (CBS San Francisco)
At about 5:30 p.m., a liquor store owner saw a woman being robbed of her camera at the corner of Ninth and Franklin. After seeing the woman knocked to the ground, the owner ran out with a gun, ordering the assailant to stop and reportedly firing four shots.
The suspect fled in a vehicle, but when police arrived, they took the business owner into custody.
“When I talk to the entire community they feel sad that someone is trying to help others and ends up to be the one arrested or being in custody,” said Carl Chan.
As head of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, Chan has been working to calm nerves at the same time he is appealing for more police presence in the area.
The police have not released the name of the shop owner and report that he was released on his own recognizance rather than being put in jail. That’s a little better than nothing, but why was he arrested to begin with?
The shop owner had a legally registered firearm, understandable when you’re operating one of the favorite targets of robbers in a dangerous neighborhood. He was attempting to stop a violent assault and robbery. There is no report of any collateral damage so no innocent bystanders were injured. It seems like a word of caution about firearm safety would have sufficed.
But why is Chinatown experiencing so much crime to begin with? The head of the local Chamber of Commerce said that business owners have been doing all they can to keep the neighborhood safe. They’ve donated private funds to hire armed security guards to patrol the streets at night. Additionally, he’s been lobbying the city to deploy more police around the area.
That’s proving harder than one might imagine, however. Back in December, the City Council listened to the demands from advocates for defunding the police and significantly slashed the police department’s budget. They had to let a number of cops go after that. With fewer officers on the beat, how shocked are the City Council members to see more criminals taking advantage of the situation and starting a crime spree?
Nobody wound up being injured in this exchange except for the woman who was being robbed, but this could be an early sign of something we’ve been warning about here for nearly a year now. When residents no longer feel that the police are able to keep them safe and prevent crime, some of them will eventually begin taking matters into their own hands. You can complain all you like about “vigilante justice,” but there will always be a limit to how much law-abiding citizens will tolerate. And arresting someone who is risking his own life to actively intervene in an armed robbery doesn’t send a very good message.