Oakland Chinatown merchants turn to private security patrols

Private security guards are being deployed in Oakland Chinatown after a rash of robberies and assaults.

The guards hit the streets Tuesday, less than 24 hours after a store owner tried to intervene in a robbery attempt, and opened fire.

He was arrested for taking matters into his own hands.

Many merchants say the shop owner who fired a gun should not have been arrested.

They say he was trying to protect a victim and that more needs to be done to stop criminals from hurting people.    

Restaurant owner Yu Zhong says she's offering beverage and food to private security guards and volunteer patrols.

She and others in the area say they're grateful for their protection following a series of attacks in this area. 

"Scared. My daughter [said] mom don't carry the handbag," says Lily Lo, a shopper.

Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, showed KTVU the safety alert devices that emit a loud noise when activated. They arrived Tuesday afternoon and were donated by Safe from Hate, a group based in New York.

"We are distributing [the devices] to many of our businesses and also seniors," says Chan.

The attempted robbery of a woman on Monday before 6 p.m. weighs heavily on the community's minds. It took place near the corner of 9th and Franklin Streets. A thief tried to steal the woman's camera.

A shop owner tried to help the victim. During a struggle with the suspect, the merchant reportedly fired four shots.

No one was hit and the suspect got away. 

The shop owner was arrested and faces one felony count of assault with a firearm. 

"He had the best intention to help people and [I] don't believe he had any intention of hurting anyone," says Chan.

He and members of Oakland police brass walked through Chinatown to reassure merchants that they are keeping an eye on the area.

In Cantonese, restaurant owner Yu Zhong says the shop owner who fired his gun is courageous.

But police say people should not take matters into their own hands.

"Having armed people out there tends to not be helpful. Officers sometimes have to determine who they're trying to encounter and that also makes it unsafe for all of us," says Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong. 

The store owner was released from jail Tuesday after posting bail, which was set at $60,000.

District Attorney Nancy O'Malley says her office has not received any reports yet and there's no timeline for whether the shop owner will be charged.