Repeatedly hit by thieves, Oakland businesses struggle to keep insurance

OAKLAND — Crime is getting so bad for some Oakland businesses they’re now having a hard time buying and keeping their insurance.

Adding insult to injury, one downtown business has already been dropped by its company. The owner of Awaken Cafe and Roasting said Farmers Insurance recently stopped renewing his policy after multiple burglary claims.

The owner said other big companies wouldn’t insure him either. He had to buy three separate policies from different companies to cover his business.

That has created a chilling effect for other burglary victims.

“Two different incidents so two different claims. Two different deductibles and a more-than-likely chance that our insurance would go up or, worst-case scenario, they would cancel us,” said Dorcia White, co-owner of Everett and Jones BBQ.

White says a burglar broke into the restaurant last Monday morning and again Tuesday morning. She believes it is the same person. Surveillance video from Monday shows the burglar unable to cut open the safe so he returns early the next morning with a bigger tool and manages to get the safe open.

Altogether, White estimates, the restaurant suffered losses amounting to $15,000 but they decided not to file the claims after talking to their insurance broker.

“We’ve been in this building for 24 years and we’ve been paying insurance with no losses. It’s one of those things — damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” White said.

Businesses across Oakland and neighboring San Francisco have been complaining about rising crime in recent years. In fact, someone broke into a car parked in front of Everett and Jones BBQ Friday morning even with a police patrol car parked a block away.

Crime statistics released by Oakland police from Jan. 1 to Feb. 5 of this year record 132 commercial burglaries matching the 132 burglaries in the same period in 2022. During the same period in 2021 only 45 cases were recorded.

In a press release, Oakland police said they saw a spike in commercial burglaries last week — more than 12 cases in five days. So far, no one has been arrested in those cases.

“When something is taken from you, even if it’s a small amount, it can really destroy a business,” White said.