About 2-3 times a week on average – sometimes more than once per day – a particular individual enters (or attempts to enter) our building. Almost invariably, he tries to steal something while here. Sometimes he succeeds. On two or three of the many occasions he’s been spotted by a staff member and told to leave, he has verbally threatened the person confronting him.
This has been going on for two years.
For the purpose of these paragraphs, I’ll call this individual “Dave”. I know his legal name, but have assigned a pseudonym and am blurring Dave’s face because I have no desire to shame him. Nor do I wish to invade his privacy or cause any kind of reprisals.
Dave is homeless. He is a habitual user of drugs that may cause him serious damage, and we've been informed by authorities that he lives with some form(s) of mental illness. When interacting with us, Dave has often claimed to be George Lucas’ son and a Jedi Knight of greater power than Luke Skywalker. More often than not, the items he's stolen from our store have been Star Wars related.
There are court-issued “stay away” orders in place for Dave, legally prohibiting him from being within 100 yards of any UC Berkeley property, and also from being within 100 yards of any Walgreens location in the SF Bay Area. Our store’s front door is 285 feet from the Walgreens on Telegraph Avenue, and we have now also filed a No Trespassing order against him. The Berkeley Police have asked us to call them every time Dave enters our business, or that we see him within the prohibited areas described above. We have done so quite often, naming Dave each time, describing his appearance, and referencing the stay away orders. With a police force that is understaffed (and due to the mostly benign tenor of his behavior) response time has often been very long, and almost never immediate. Whenever Dave has been arrested the charges have always been misdemeanors, and he has been back on the street and usually in this neighborhood by sometime the next day.
WE, AS A SOCIETY, ARE FAILING DAVE.
Those words may appear strange coming from a victim of his crimes. To be fair, until a few weeks ago I never thought I would have written all this down. Dave and a few other individuals like him (though he is by far the biggest example) represent a drain on my store’s resources, causing an environment in which our opening staff members feel locked to the front door, guarding against infiltration rather than attending to their other duties and customers.
Some may say that’s one of the costs of retail, and in the most literal sense they would be right. However, given this state’s inability to properly care for its chronically ill residents, or to adequately provide shelter and other services for its homeless population, there are few ways Dave would be able to find the help he needs to either become a functioning member of society, or learn to avoid the disruptive urges of his psyche and addiction.
And so here we are, Dave stuck in a seemingly perpetual cycle of catch and release, with GoB and our neighbors the unfortunate gravity wells in his destructive orbit. I’d very much like him to get help; obviously out of self-interest, but also because it pains me to see another human unable to escape the grasp of his own self-harming nature.
- Erik Bigglestone, Managing Owner