Philadelphia’s Chinese restaurants imperiled by crime, restricted hours William Hennelly
Philadelphia is a tough place to do business for Chinese takeout restaurant owners. While the restaurants have been coping with curtailed business stemming from a city ordinance that requires them to close at 11 pm, Asian business owners have been menaced by gunmen and robbed in the past few months.
“The Philadelphia Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance to identify and locate the suspect for multiple home invasion/robberies in northwest and southwest divisions,” the police website says.
“Northwest and Southwest Detective Divisions are investigating a pattern of 11 home invasions of Asian-owned businesses between May 3 and Aug 1, where the suspects and method of the crimes are the same.
“In many of the incidents, the suspects break into the closed businesses where the residences are attached and tie the occupants while threatening and robbing them at gunpoint taking money, cigarettes, jewelry and electronics.
Phillypolice.com posted surveillance video from several of the incidents showing the suspects.
On Monday, close to 200 business owners met in Chinatown to hear from police, in a meeting organized by the Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association, philadelphia.cbslocal.com reported.
“Right now, all the restaurant owners, including myself, we’re living in fear, a lot of fear and pressure,” said Chinese restaurant owner Ling Lin, the website said.
On June 29, Ghi-Ming Chen said his restaurant was broken into and he and a friend were tied up at gunpoint. “They took all of our belongings, all of our cash, they took everything,” he said.
Lieutenant John Walker of the Philadelphia PD said most of the break-ins took place between 4 and 6 am, and as many as four suspects are involved.
“The psychological trauma is huge, so we’re working with the FBI to get victim services people out here working with the community,” Walker said, according to philadelphia.cbslocal.com.
Zhong Gul Yang, 64, who has owned a takeout restaurant for 16 years, is looking to sell the North Philadelphia business, philly.com reported.
In 2005, the city adopted an ordinance that prevents commercial establishments, particularly takeout restaurants, from staying open past 11 pm in residential areas.
The stores were becoming a “haven for drug activity and crime”, the ordinance says.
Yang’s best time for business was between midnight and 2 am.
He had to lay off workers but has not found a buyer for the restaurant yet. Yang is a member of the restaurant association, which was formed after the ordinance went into effect. The association membership has more than 300 Chinese restaurant owners.
City Councilman David Oh is working to amend the ordinance, which he said “seems like scapegoating”, philly.com reported.
John Stanford, spokesman for the Philadelphia PD, said takeout restaurants “give people perpetuating crime a place to hang out, a place to set up shop, [and] that can lead to someone being robbed, someone getting shot.”
“If you look at a location that’s had a number of shootings or other incidents, you see that go down when the store is closed,” he told philly.com.
That may be the case, but the restaurants appear to be nothing more than innocent bystanders.
Yingzhang Lin, president of the restaurant association, said the focus should be on making neighborhoods safer, and said his association has conducted crime-prevention seminars, philly.com reported.
In January 2012, a holdup gunman fatally shot Xiang Huang, 27, in the chest, while his wife, who was holding their baby daughter, was a few feet away. The crime occurred at the couple’s takeout restaurant, Jin House, in Northeast Philadelphia.
As if the crime and the restricted hours weren’t enough, on July 26 a motorist crashed into a Chinese restaurant in South Philly.
The Friendship Gate at 10th Street in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, pictured in 2013.