Crime time coverage

July 8, 2002

Who could have imagined the pizza business would ever be called a dangerous line of work?

True, it's not as risky as law enforcement, as hazardous as slaughterhouse butchery or as precarious as hanging electrical lines.

Steve Coomes, Editor

But it's not unusual to hear about a driver who was murdered while delivering a $10 pie.

Not all drivers die; some get off easier by trading their tip money for knife wounds or bats to their rib cages. And not all thugs use weapons on drivers; some just ambush them from behind bushes, deliver a few punches to the gut and claim a free midnight snack.

The risk isn't limited to drivers; counter and make line workers are at risk also because criminals strike wherever they can find cash. Latenight heists often occur when workers' minds are more focused on cleaning up than watching for someone lurking outside the door.

You've probably read about some of the abovementioned crimes on PizzaMarketplace. Expect to see more of them.


Because it matters to everyone in the business.

Reporting on crimes against the industry is our way of pointing out that this isn't just a "big city" problem or one particular to the United States. It happens everywhere, which makes it everybody's problem, and that makes it something PizzaMarketplace needs to cover.

I know this site exists ultimately to help operators and their suppliers succeed in this business, but I believe we also have a responsibility to help readers improve the safety of their operations. And that certainly includes saving lives and securing funds.

So now what do we do?

While it's been said that knowledge is power, knowledge also can be a burden when it's negative. If you've read some of the crime stories we've published, you can't help but walk away with a heavy heart.

Understand that I like reporting about a delivery driver's bludgeoning death less than you like reading it, but the fact remains that the industry needed to know that 57-year-old Barry Lynn Schrader was murdered while doing his job.

People in the industry need to know that a machete-wielding nutcase and his accomplice robbed a pizza store of $2,500 -- at 10:50 p.m., 10 minutes before closing time, when the doors would have been secured.

The industry needs to know that some "customers" will kill a driver just for the thrill of it, and then walk away from the scene eating a pizza.

"And not all thugs use weapons on drivers; some just ambush them from behind bushes, deliver a few punches to the gut and claim a free midnight snack."

The industry also should know when those responsible for those crimes are caught, prosecuted and punished, and we'll cover that, too.

Why should operators know all this?

So they might reconsider springing for a POS system with caller I.D. and abandoned address updates.

So it might spur them to rethink their closing procedures.

So they can train drivers to think less about a potential tip and more about driving away from a house without a porch light.

Do something!

Because of its many entrepreneurs and the high level of competition between them, the pizza industry is highly fragmented. Few industries of this size exist without a true trade association that serves to bind its members for causes that benefit the whole.

Despite owning an estimated 40 percent of all U.S. pizza shops, large chains haven't demonstrated the ability to mass the troops in an effort to improve the safety of the business.

As a collective body, the pizza industry could work for legislation that allows operators to take action to protect workers, such as excluding delivery to areas where drivers are threatened.

As a group, pizzerias might establish closing policies that deny criminals easy access to the inside of the store. If every pizza shop locked its doors at nightfall, for example, but allowed counter workers to open the doors via remote release, hold-up artists would at least be denied some element of surprise.

Could a true trade association, one that unites industry personnel under the banner of protecting its own be the answer?

Oh, I almost forgot. There's one more reason why we've chosen to report on pizza industry crimes: We know you're interested. Our monitoring and tracking software tells us that crime stories are among the most frequently read on the site.

And that tells us something else: You're as horrified as we are about what's happening to your employees.

Topics: Commentary

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