OAKLAND, Calif. - Kaiser Permanente, Oakland's largest private employer, has issued a memo directing workers in downtown Oakland to stay in their buildings for lunch and work, in response to street robberies of workers who went out to grab something to eat.
Workers are told to bring their own food or have it delivered.
One Kaiser worker, Arielle Crenshaw, said she agrees with her employer.
"It’s just kind of scary in general, not even just to go to work, just kind of coming outside," she said outside a Kaiser parking garage. "If you can work at home, work at home. If you have to come in, just be safe about it."
A memo issued last month and obtained by KTVU also tells workers not based in Oakland to not have any meetings downtown and to instead move them elsewhere, or have them online.
It also says the Claremont Hotel in the hills is the only hotel approved for business lodging.
In a statement, Kaiser said in part, "Those recommendations remain in place for now. Kaiser Permanente is committed to ensuring the safety and security of our employees and physicians across all of our locations. We continually monitor our environments for concerns, review our practices and strengthen them wherever possible."
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Many downtown merchants and other people who live and work in the area are taking issue with these directives.
"It is a little upsetting to hear that you know, because everyone's trying to thrive, everyone's trying to make business. It is pretty slow as it is," said Mauricio Torres, who owns Molcajete Cocina Mexicana near 17th and Webster.
Emil Wahbeh, owner of Aroma Cafe at 19th and Franklin, said, "I don't think you want to discourage people from walking around and kind of give in to the bad elements that are running around. I think quite the opposite: I think that if there are more people on the streets, there will be less incidences."
Elena Brewster, who works downtown said, "I think it's overkill.
She expressed sympathy for any Kaiser workers who may have been robbed. But she added, "Trauma is trauma, but to live under a rock because something bad might happen is traumatizing in its own way, as well."
Moe Gevirtz, who also works downtown, was aghast when told of Kaiser's memo, saying, "It would be a policy to destroy Oakland."
Gevirtz said, "To have a large corporation tell them to stay in the building and bring lunch from home - is atrocious!
It’s not clear if these directives from Kaiser will be permanent or not.
In a statement to KTVU, Mayor Sheng Thao's office said in part, "Oakland is making progress in addressing community safety in our business districts where many of Kaiser’s facilities are located. There are more police officers and safety ambassadors on the street than anytime in the past two years. At the end of last year, Oakland experienced significant reductions in property crime in business districts across the city. Oakland will remain vigilant and work collaboratively to ensure this downward trend continues and that more resources are brought to the table."
Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail Henry at Henry.Lee@fox.com and follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and www.facebook.com/henrykleefan