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East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse employees robbed at gunpoint

on January 21, 2011

Workers at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse were robbed at gunpoint Tuesday evening when two men forced two of the store’s employees, who were in the process of closing for the day, to hand over money from the cash register as well their own wallets.

“The younger one was excited and seemed inexperienced. He was threatening us a lot, yelling. But the older one was experienced and calm. It almost seemed like he was trying to keep us focused,” said Peter, a long-time employee of the store who requested his last name be omitted for safety reasons. He described the men who robbed him as African-American, one in his twenties, the other in his thirties.

According to Peter, the two men—one wielding a gun, the other a knife—pushed their way into the store as he and a co-worker were leaving at approximately 6:30 pm. After bringing the employees to the rear of the store and demanding they open the safe, he said, the robbers also took their wallets, making off with just under $100 belonging to the store and $40 between the two employees.

“They threatened to kill us because we couldn’t get into the strongbox,” Peter said. “I feel lucky that my mind didn’t start racing, I was just very focused on giving them what they wanted.”

While he was calm and thinking clearly during the ordeal, Peter said he had no intention of trying to fight the men or refuse their demands. “I am smart enough to know you can’t outsmart a bullet. When someone has a gun, they win.”

The Depot for Creative Reuse is a registered non-profit that resells arts and crafts materials, furniture, fabric, and educational supplies in order to divert waste from landfills and provide low-cost materials for educators.  Since the depot resells recycled goods, it does not carry the kinds of high-end merchandise or generate the kind of cash flow that typically attracts the attention of thieves.

The robbery, which happened on the 4600 block of Telegraph, is the second this month in the Temescal area, where robberies of this kind are rare. According to the Oakland Crimespotting website, another robbery involving a firearm took place on the 4200 block of Telegraph on January 14.

Despite the rarity of robberies in the Temescal neighborhood, Aidan Chase, owner of Chase Designs, which is also on the 4600 block of Telegraph, said she and her employees are always careful when coming to and from work. “We’re already careful. We’ve made arrangements for the person who works with me to park her car close to the door, but now we’ll be even more cautious,” Chase said.

Carlo Busby, president of the Temescal Merchants’ Association, agreed that the robbery at the Depot for Creative Reuse was “worse than what we usually see here.”

Busby said that in the last three or four years the neighborhood has seen a reduction in robberies involving guns, but that after Tuesday’s incident Temescal merchants will be especially diligent in communicating about suspicious activity with one another.

Busby also believes that a stronger police presence on the streets would go a long way in preventing these kinds of crimes, which he described as a “crime of opportunity.”

“Our main efforts have been to try to preserve the walking officer. It’s a preventative measure that’s made a big difference over the years but we understand the OPD doesn’t have the resources to fund that,” Busby said.

As with Oakland’s other neighborhoods, Temescal’s problem-solving officer will be returning to the beat this month after budget cuts forced their termination last summer.

Peter said he doesn’t expect to see the men who robbed the depot caught immediately, or to recover the contents of his wallet. “This is the first time I’ve had my life threatened, but sadly living in Oakland you have a feeling that it’s just a matter of time before you get accosted in one form or another,” he said. “It seems reasonable not to expect results.  I don’t think I am getting my wallet back anytime soon.”


  1. Neils on January 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    At least if you had a good video camera setup you might have gone viral on YouTube.Crowd source the manhunt. Can’t the City of Oakland find free money to supply businesses with better video surveillance both inside and outside of their businesses? I bet it would make the customers feel safer as well.

    • Ken on January 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      A businessowner I spoke to said the city of oakland doesn’t allow business cameras to surveil the streets outside their businesses. I don’t know if this is true or not but it’s what one business owner on Broadway told me.

      • Ken on January 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm

        of course this has no impact on store interiors. every store will probably have to start doing this in oakland due to Oakland VOTERS voting for politicians who are so anti-police.

        there are thieves and criminals in every country around the world. only these stupid bleeding heart liberals would be anti-police. or of course, those people who are buddy buddy with “misunderstood” criminals.

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