The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 5, 2013

Pizzeria owners: Crime against delivery drivers rare

Justin Dennis
jdennis@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — It’s supposed to be a simple job – box up pizza as it comes out of the oven, stuff the order in a thermal bag and drive it to the address listed. The past week, however, has proved trying for two local delivery drivers.

Between the gunpoint mugging of a female Domino’s driver and a Pizza Deli Six-Pack driver’s carjacking, slinging pies may appear to be risky business. Pizzeria owners said they’re shocked, too, but because it’s an extremely rare happenstance.

“I have not ever had one incident in 10 years,” said Larry Roussin, owner of Italian Village Pizza in Ebensburg. “Knock on wood, we’re lucky in that respect, and I don’t know what I would do if that situation came up.”

Like all organized retailers, pizzerias keep loss prevention strategies in place – such as keeping only enough cash on hand during runs to make change for a $20 bill or making regular cash drops into a safe after every delivery. They also train their employees on what to do when assailed by a crook – just give him the money.

“You don’t want your life put in jeopardy over a pepperoni pizza,” Roussin said.

Brian Basile, owner of Pizza Deli Six-Pack along Franklin Street, said his driver was pretty shaken up when his car was swiped while in the middle of a transaction.

“I think he had his car running and he had his window down,” Basile said, explaining that the driver usually leaves the car on when going to customers’ doors, locking it up with a spare key.

“I guess (the thief) saw the opportunity and was able to take the car,” he said.

Luckily, the car was later returned. It was lightly damaged, but nothing that the driver’s insurance wouldn’t cover. Although Pizza Deli drivers are independent employees, Basile said he makes sure to keep on top of the documentation they need to drive legally and safely – such as verifying valid car insurance.

“Our drivers do a great job and it’s pretty much an isolated incident,” he said. “If you consider all our deliveries, it’s a rare occasion that that happens.”

Rick Ardini, owner of Rik-N-Nik’s in Ebensburg, who makes all the deliveries for his shop, said he has his concealed carry license and keeps a loaded gun in his delivery car, although he’s not once had to brandish it. He said he feels Ebensburg isn’t what he would call a high crime area.

Although an unnerving rise in violent crime – especially in the city’s Moxham neighborhood, where the Domino’s driver was held up – has recently brought concerned citizens before Johnstown City Council, none of the restaurateurs said they would consider changing their delivery areas.

“We want to be able to deliver to whoever calls,” Basile said.

“We’re not gonna back down. We’re gonna be as vigilant and as safe as we possibly can, but we have a lot of good customers in the area where (the carjacking) happened.

“I think 98 percent of the deliveries we make, people are good, they’re friendly, they’re regular customers,” he said.

“But, there’s always that small percentage that makes the headlines.”

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