Oakland Merchants Packing Heat

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    This is standard equipment for Oakland merchants, according to a news report.

    Behind the counter at a jewelry store in Oakland's Fruitvale District is more than rings, necklaces and other pricey baubles that are targets for thieves in these desperate times.

    Merchants like Rodolfo Perez, who owns Esparza's Jewelry, have in the past waited up to five months for Oakland's over-burdened cops to take a police report after thieves grabbed $20,000 worth of merchandise in 2010, according to the Bay Citizen. So with 80 cops laid off in the East Bay city, Perez is packing his own heat, doing business with a .38-caliber revolver attached to his belt, the Web site reported.

    “We have to defend ourselves,” Hugo Guerrero, owner of Hugo’s Tours travel agency and chief executive of a local merchants association, told the website.

    This doesn't just mean stores with pricey items like the jeweler. Valentino Torres, owner of La Torta Loca sandwich shop, is up front about the eatery's attitude. On the wall, there's an "arsenal of knives, clubs, swords, nun-chucks and machetes, 'as a warning,'" he told the news Web site.

    Despite the armed public, things aren't exactly improving. Crooks still operate with relative fearlessness and impunity -- and they're armed, too, merchants say. What's more business has been hurt drastically since cops were cut: the fear of crime keeps many customers away, merchants told the Web site.

    Many International Boulevard restaurants used to stay open until 9 or 10 p.m., with plenty of diners. Now, almost every storefront is shuttered by 7 p.m., the Web site reported.