HIGHLINE COLLEGE |Fri, Apr 3, 2020

Crime causes fear for local businesses

By Seattle Valdivia/ Staff Reporter

Local businesses near Highline are complaining that they are suffering from increased crime.

Police say its more perception than reality. [See story, page 14]

Nonetheless, robberies and vandalism are creating fear for businesses in the Kent and Des Moines area near the college.

Vandalism seems to be growing around Highline, from Fred Meyer to the Kent-Des Moines Road, as multiple businesses faced robberies and acts of vandalism in recent months.

Local owners, managers and workers are worried about losing costumers due to the crime.

Local people say that they've suffered vandalism and robberies such as broken glass, people taking merchandise out of stores, car break-ins and violence on the streets.

Metro PCS is one of the most and more recent robbed stores in the area.

Alexis Galeana Garcia, the manager of the store, says that the business has suffered multiple vandalism and robbery attempts.

The store got robbed on July 3 around 3 p.m. in the afternoon.

"It wasn't like a gunpoint or something, it was just a mistake from the employee at that time," Galeana said.

A male entered the business and wanted to see an iPhone X.

"We're not supposed to show a device until the device is purchased, but the employee showed it to him anyway," Galeana said.

The employee got the device out, so the person snatched it and ran out of the door.

Later the store was able to get the iPhone back.

The male who robbed the phone got into an accident on the freeway, where the cops caught him.

"A big accident happened about Wild Waves on I-5," Galeana said. "The black SUV that hit like 10 cars on I-5, that was the gentleman who robbed the store."

Last year, a couple of Metro PCS stores suffered a series of robberies where they were being targeted by the same people on the same day, Galeana said.

"The guys who were stealing from our stores came here and parked in front of the store, but the cops showed up on time before they broke into this store," Galeana said. "So, the cops stopped them way beforehand. They were tracking them down and had enough clue to know who they were."

Another business that has been victim of vandalism and robbery is Sushi Nola.

The owner of the restaurant, Martina Gabriela Lanier, said that they have been robbed a couple of times.

"Last year some boys broke the window and took our safe, but there wasn't any money in there," she said.

"Some people have broken our windows before, but they didn't take anything," Lanier said.

When they had open only three months, the business suffered a fright.

"Some people dressed like cholos [a style of dress favored by some young men] gathered in front of the store at 10 p.m. and stayed for a while until we started to feel uncomfortable," Lanier said. "Since we all are just women working here, we called the police and they never came."

The people parked outside of her business playing loud music while yelling inappropriate words, she said.

Her daughter waited until some of them moved away from the door, she then ran to her car and went to the back of the restaurant to help take the other employees to their cars, she said.

"Thank God they didn't do anything to us or my store," Lanier said. "It was so scary, and of course I got so mad because the police never arrived."

Near that business is Robin Hood Pizza, who suffered a robbery.

Kul Bir is the worker who described what happened.

"A teenager about 14 or 16 years old, came in and started to yell at my boss to give him the money," Bir said. "I'm not sure what kind of tool he was carrying to do the theft, but my boss gave him all the money, including the tips jar."

The owner called the police right away, but they took a while to get to the business.

"Just when the boy left, my boss called the police and they took so long," Bir said. "They arrived like 20 minutes later, so they couldn't do anything because obviously the boy ran away."

The police never caught him, he said.

To the south is Mercado Latino, a market which sells everything from groceries to clothing.

Manager Luz Herrera said that they've never had money stolen, but that they struggle with the homeless people who come into their business to steal things.

"This happens a lot. People have been stealing our products. They always want to take store products hidden in their clothes, backpacks or even their purses," Herrera said.

Herrera said that they always have someone watching the security cameras in the business.

"First, we watch them through the video cameras, based on how they are dressed, or in how they behave. If they start acting suspiciously, we start watching them closely," Herrera said. "That's when we see how they hide some products in their clothes, so when they want to go out, we catch them and ask for the products they took."

They've never needed to call the police for these cases, but she said they won't let someone steal from the store.

"We always try our best so they can't take anything from here, because with someone who succeeds, others will want to come and steal from us too," Herrera said.

A worker from Chevron, the gas station next to Highline, wasn't available to talk.

However, inside of the Chevron gas station, there's a small coffee business called the Bizzy Bean Espresso.

Chelsea Dotson is a worker in there and said that the gas station has been robbed a couple of times.

"Our stand hasn't been robbed or anything, but I know the gas station has," Dotson said. "I've seen how people just get in the store, take products and run out of the store."

Dotson said that the criminal activity is growing, and maybe that has to do with the huge volume of homeless people that its behind Lowe's, she said.

She said they have thought about hiring private security, but there's just not enough funds.

"I think that's a big issue because it is happening at a high volume here in the area, and us, as other business can't afford private security to stop this," Dotson said.

The Premier Automotive Services is another business which has experienced vandalism several times.

They've never experienced theft, but have bad experiences with vandalism, said Jason Amburgey, a worker from the business.

"The last time we experienced a vandalism act, was like three or four months ago," Amburgey said. "We have had vandalism and theft of car stuff, such as broken windows and damaged cars in the front."

He said that people take this kind of action without caring about the consequences.

Even if they don't leave anything valuable in the cars, people break in anyway.

"People steal whatever, even the change that they see out of the cupholders, blanks, jackets or whatever," Amburgey said. "And honestly I don't think they care about the police."

It's hard to steal from the automotive services, Amburgey said.

"We are a service paid business, so it's kind of hard to steal from us, like we don't have anything for sale in the front, we don't have merchandise to lose," he said.

"We're not a retail business like Lowe's or Fred Meyer. We don't have to worry about people who walk in and take merchandise and leave," Amburgey said.

Employees at Walgreens, Fred Meyer and Lowe's said that each store has a media relations team and could not be interviewed.

As crime increases in the area some businesses stick together, and others said that if something happens with other businesses they will not hesitate to help.

"For this plaza [just south of Highline], we are all tight together, so whatever happens to one of us, we got each other's backs," said Alexis Galeana Garcia, manager of Metro PCS.

"Unfortunately, we've experienced some bad things, but if something happens to other business, we'll do whatever to help them," said Martina Gabriela Lanier, owner of Sushi Nola.

Others still hope to find a solution.

"Hopefully with the help of the police, we'll be able to figure it out a solution where vandalism can decrease and feel safer around the area," said Chelsea Dotson of Bizzy Bean Espresso.


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