WHITTIER — Concerned about their own safety and the safety of customers, employees at the Starbucks at Franklin & Nicollet avenues have asked the company to hire a security guard.
Baristas delivered a petition signed by 500 community members and customers in support of the guard to managers Nov. 12. A small group of employees and patrons rallied outside the coffee shop the next day to further voice their concerns about safety at the intersection, which has long been a hotspot for transients and a variety of criminal activity.
"Right here at this very corner we’ve had 170 police reports filed this year, there’ve been numerous robberies within a two-mile radius, people have been robbed in our parking lot, customers and employees have been harassed on a near-daily basis and some of us have even had our lives threatened," said Starbucks barista Angel Gardner.
Baristas at the store originally circulated an internal petition and requested a meeting with Starbucks management to discuss the possibility of a security guard. Employees created the larger petition when they received no response to their request.
Starbucks Spokeswoman Tara Darrow said a security guard is probably not the solution to the store’s problems, but the company is researching other avenues.
"We’ve definitely been aware of issues at that location and it’s something we’ve taken very seriously because the safety of our customer and partners — we call our employees partners — is a number one priority for Starbucks," she said. "And that neighborhood is a transitional neighborhood, so we’re very much aware and working closely with police and the neighborhood watch captain."
Darrow said she was not aware of any Starbucks in the U.S. with security guards.
"It would be very rare," she said.
But baristas at the Whittier Starbucks said the store’s problems make doing their job difficult. Drunken behavior, assaults on employees, drug use in the bathrooms and other incidents often keep workers from serving customers. A security guard would be able to watch the doors and deal with such issues before they got out of hand, said barista Aaron Kocher.
Kocher said he planned to attend neighborhood safety meetings to help address crime in the area and try to build more support ior a security guard at the store.
Nancy Athanasselis, a regular at the Whittier Starbucks, said she signed the petition for a guard because she sees the staff spending too much time handling safety issues.
Starbucks management recently arranged a meeting with store employees, local police and — via telephone — the chain’s regional head of security to discuss safety issues. Kocher said employees were already following the advice given at the meeting and their call for a security guard remained unanswered.