Oakland food truck vendors band together for protection against gangs and gangsters

Every morning, Gabriel Martinez slides a black 9-millimeter pistol into a leather holster over his jeans and thinks about his son.

Five-year-old Gabrielito was struck by a stray bullet when a man opened fire on Mr. Martinez’s taco truck in East Oakland on New Year’s Eve as Gabrielito played nearby. After Gabrielito died in his arms, Mr. Martinez locked the blue and white truck behind a tall gray fence and gave himself over to grief.

Before Gabrielito’s death, the men and women who operate the food trucks along International Boulevard, which slices through the heart of East Oakland, accepted the frequent robberies as a cost of doing business. Most never called the police. But Gabrielito’s death has made many realize that the crime that endangers their businesses also endangers the dream of providing a better future for their families.

Since they were first allowed to operate in that area, taco trucks and pushcarts have provided a route to a fledgling middle class for a small group of entrepreneurs from Oakland’s growing population of Latino immigrants and citizens. Latinos now comprise close to 22 percent of Oakland’s population, with a majority living in the Fruitvale district, a bustling, colorful neighborhood that has become a culinary destination for locals and thrifty tourists.

As with most small businesses in Fruitvale, however, the taco trucks deal mostly in cash, and the cash attracts robbers. In 2011, Oakland officials said, Fruitvale had the most reported robberies in the city. Now, a group of mostly older Latino vendors plan to pool their money to hire armed security guards and install surveillance cameras.

Having something to protect is unusual for most of Oakland’s Latino immigrant population, who earn on average the lowest incomes in the city. But they have no faith that the Oakland police can protect them, so they are banding together for self-protection.

And that’s the story. RTFA for the details – people arming themselves, banding together with or without modern gear and guns to protect themselves because local government, local police couldn’t care less about their community.

Read through the anecdotes – read the excuses offered by cops and politicians alike. You probably could write them yourselves from memory or cut-and-paste from your local TV station’s website.

Nothing new about it. Nothing special about it happening in Oakland. The coppers and politicians will respond to the posh houses up in the hills – if they respond anywhere. They don’t expect many votes from undocumentados anyway.

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