Pizza shops cut off parts of city after drivers robbed, attacked
Local pizza franchises are taking added precautions this summer, including removing company logos from the tops of their delivery vehicles, after several incidents of drivers being robbed at gunpoint and assaulted in York City.
Mike Cornell owns Domino's Pizza franchises in several counties, but it was not until he opened three locations in York County that his delivery drivers began getting robbed, he said. Cornell has been affiliated with Domino's for 21 years.
And despite the fact that, to some degree, robbery is an occupational hazard for fast-food deliverers, he said his drivers are getting guns pointed at them at an alarming rate.
"I can't even count them, there have been so many," Cornell said.
Robberies: Cornell owns the Domino's locations at 351 Loucks Road in Manchester Township, 350 Richland Ave. in West York and 1539 Mount Rose Ave. in Spring Garden Township. All of the stores border York City, but drivers from the Mount Rose Avenue and Richland Avenue shops are the most frequently targeted.
In the past year alone, drivers from those locations have been robbed, often at gunpoint, 12 to 15 times, Cornell said, adding three drivers have had their cars stolen while on deliveries.
A couple of times the stick-up men were just that — men. But more often than not, Cornell said, the robberies are being committed by kids on bikes.
And two things about that particularly concern him, he said.
First, these are neighborhood kids who someone must know, and yet the community does not come forward to identify them and put a stop to it, he said.
Second, the kids are armed.
"The kids have guns, that's what we're concerned with," Cornell said. "They're little kids. The guns could just go off."
After each robbery, the police are called, and a report is filed. In several cases, Cornell said, the drivers have been able to give descriptions. A common theme is that at least one of the youths — possibly the same one — wears a red hooded sweatshirt. Yet no arrests have been made.
Calling the cops: Although Cornell said his drivers were robbed repeatedly in the last year, York City Police Department records show 11 robberies involving pizza delivery drivers since June 2015, according to Chief Wes Kahley. Six happened in 2015, and five were reported this year, with the most recent being March 20. The chief said there were no records of drivers having their cars stolen during robberies.
Capt. Tim Utley said when a pizza delivery driver is robbed, it's usually part of a spate of such crimes.
"That stuff a lot of times goes in spurts, depending on the time of year," Utley said. "Fortunately, we haven't had any of that here of late."
Utley said incidents such as delivery drivers being robbed garner quick attention from the police because they trend together. One will happen, then the next day another, and then a few more over a week or so, he said. They stop when an arrest is made or the pressure from an increase in police presence is felt.
"Those get fast attention. They come to the forefront pretty quickly," he said.
City officials: York City Council Vice President Michael Helfrich said he was unaware of any such instances taking place in the city.
"This is not something that has been shared with me by the (city) administration or by the police department," he said.
Helfrich said now that he has been made aware of the robberies, he will look into the matter further.
Community support: Cornell said during one robbery, a woman was across the street unpacking groceries from her car and called to one of the boys by name as he was robbing the driver. She asked the boy what he was doing, but then she went in her house and didn't come back out. Nor did she call the police, he said.
"There is no way the officers are not seeing these kids. They live in these communities," Cornell said.
Each store has had to cut off certain parts of their service zones, refusing to deliver in those areas. Drivers have stopped using the car-toppers, the magnetic signs stuck to the top of their cars, to conceal their identities while delivering.
"They follow us when they see our sign. Sometimes they wait until the delivery is made, but sometimes they don't," Cornell said. "They just take what they want. And it's not like they are getting much, maybe $20, $30 at a time."
At least eight drivers have quit out of fear, he said.
Assaulted: Mount Rose store manager Mark Douglas said he, too, has been with Domino's for about 20 years.
In that time, as a franchise owner and as a store manager, he never had a robbery until he came to York. This past year, he said, six drivers were robbed in a two-week span and one of his drivers was beaten during a robbery.
"The customer paid with a credit card, so there wasn't anything for the driver to give them," he said. "He was hit with a blunt object, but he wasn't sure if it was a gun or what it was."