Police: In-N-Out not a magnet for crime

Police: In-N-Out not a magnet for crime

Michele Ellson

An In-N-Out Burger in San Leandro. Photo by Michele Ellson.

Plans to build a new In-N-Out Burger at the foot of the Webster Tube have sparked concerns that the hamburger restaurant will attract crime, with hundreds of residents voicing their opposition to the planned restaurant over crime, traffic and other concerns. Even District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has weighed in, asking the Planning Board on July 23 to consider the crime she thinks the restaurant could bring.

“We have people coming to what can be considered a vulnerable site in Alameda. It’s easy in and easy out, no pun intended, with the Alameda tube,” said O’Malley, who noted the high number of robberies in Oakland and said that city’s high crime impacts surrounding cities too.

But Alameda’s top cop says he doesn’t think the In-N-Out will be a magnet for crime, and police in East Bay cities that have the restaurants said they have not been a bigger problem than other businesses.

“There’s no absolutes. We won’t know for sure until it’s in there,” Acting Police Chief Paul Rolleri said. “Based on what I know, at this point, I’m not concerned that it’s going to be a big problem for us.”

The In-N-Out is part of the Alameda Landing development that includes a Target-anchored shopping center under construction and 276 planned new homes. It would sit on a 2.3-acre “remnant” parcel across the street from the shopping center that’s also expected to become home to a Chase bank branch and a Safeway gas station.

O’Malley told the Planning Board that in addition to high crime in neighboring Oakland and the site’s proximity to the Tube, she thinks the site’s isolation and In-N-Out’s late-night hours – the burger chain is asking for permission to remain open until 1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays – could equal trouble. (O’Malley didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking more detail on her crime concerns.)

But police in four East Bay cities that are home to In-N-Out Burger – all four of them near major freeways – said the restaurant hasn’t been a bigger problem than similar businesses.

“I can tell you it hasn’t been a burden in that regard. And it certainly hasn’t generated more calls for service than any other like businesses in the city (that) I am aware of,” Pleasant Hill Police Sgt. David Downs said of In-N-Out, which he said has been in Pleasant Hill for a year.

“As far as the business in our town, they’ve been a good business,” he added. “They haven’t caused us any undue problems, and I don’t anticipate any in the future.”

Fremont Police Detective Bill Veteran said his department gets “very few” calls for service from In-N-Out Burger. “It’s no different than any late night fast food restaurant that we have,” Veteran said.

Veteran said that any type of business open late could be “more problematic” than one that closes earlier. Still, he said Fremont’s In-N-Out is “not a problem.”

A staffer with the Livermore Police Department also said that city’s police haven’t had an issue with In-N-Out.

San Leandro Police Lt. Randy Brandt said that city’s In-N-Out, which sits on what he called “probably one of the main arteries of the East Bay,” hasn’t generated a lot of police calls. He said the department does get a lot of shoplifting calls from the city’s nearby Target. (The San Leandro In-N-Out sits in the same shopping center as a Walmart, and a strip mall is across the street; Target is about a mile up the road.)

Brandt was loath to draw a connection – or to say there isn’t one – between In-N-Out and crime.

“The correlation between In-N-Out and crime would be really hard for us to figure out,” he said. “I haven’t heard any negative stuff at all.”

Crime is a sore subject for Alamedans who are wary of the Island’s big-city neighbor and its troubles, and particularly for residents of the Bayport development, who reported a rash of break-ins and an armed robbery earlier this summer. Burglaries and thefts rose over the first six months of 2013, data provided by the Alameda police show, though reports of a host of other crimes – including robbery and auto thefts – have declined.

Rolleri said he’s sensitive to the concerns of Bayport residents; while the neighborhood is statistically not a high-crime area, he said, there has been an uptick in burglaries there. But he said the department practices proactive policing to keep crime in Alameda low. Rolleri said the department uses traffic enforcement as a tool for catching would-be criminals, and he said residents’ high level of engagement with police also makes Alameda safer.

He said that any business can generate some crime.

“Any time that you have commercial development, whether it’s a department store, a boutique, or in this case, a fast food restaurant, you run a risk of at least theft – there will be people inclined to steal and commit some form of larceny. They’re going to be attracted to a place where there are cars and people,” Rolleri said.

Still, there are a number of fast food restaurants near the Posey and Webster tubes that are open late at night, and Rolleri said Alameda “(does) not have elevated crime rates associated with any of them.”

A Burger King, Taco Bell and Jack in the Box greet visitors as they exit the Webster Tube onto Webster Street, with the Taco Bell open until 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and the Jack in the Box advertising that it’s open 24 hours a day. Marina Village, next to the Posey Tube, has a Carl’s Jr. and Green Burrito that’s open until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and is also home to a Quiznos, a Subway and a 360 Gourmet Burrito.

Rolleri said there’s no evidence that fast food restaurants bring crime into surrounding neighborhoods.

“In terms of (In-N-Out) being a magnet for crime? I’m reserving judgment on that. I don’t see it based on what I know today,” he said.

Up next: Alameda’s great retail debate


Submitted by Becky (not verified) on Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Jack in the Box is open 24 hours and is only a few blocks down.. I don't see what the big is in regards to crime. Now the traffic the whole center will bring is another issue..

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Why is there so much violent crime at fast-food restaurants?

Late shift proves deadly to more fast-food workers

Submitted by Nancy Vicknair (not verified) on Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Exactly. Alameda reached the tipping point about 5-6 years ago. We watched the change. Predicting the future of the once pristine little island paradise, we all moved out. Far.
The fatal combination of poor city management with choppy growing pangs and crime coming over the bridges and soon the tube is leading toward Alameda's demise.

Submitted by C.A. Parker (not verified) on Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Very informative articles, Steve, thanks for posting the links. I would encourage people to read both of them. What kind of security cameras are planned for the shopping center? I heard a police substation may be situated at the new shopping center? If this is true, that would be good to publicize. It seems like that could be a deterrent. I noticed some shopping centers are really beefing up their camera surveillance now. For instance, the Walmart/Sports Authority Westgate Mall shopping area off of Davis Street in San Leandro (the one across from Costco) now has installed large banks of cameras along the roofline and has prominent signage in the lot saying cameras are in use.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Hey Steve: Thanks for your comment - it reminded me that I meant to include the crime stats I referenced in the piece. Those are attached at the bottom of the story.