Police in Daly City are investigating whether a recent armed takeover robbery at Denny's in the Serramonte Center was committed by criminals copycatting the surge in similar crimes at Oakland area restaurants and elsewhere.
The Friday morning takeover robbery does not appear to have been committed by robbers who traveled across the Bay after committing robberies in the East Bay, although police are not ruling out that possibility, said Capt. Mike Edwards.
It is possible, however, that the three suspects in the crime were copying the suspects who committed the Oakland robberies, Edwards said.
In the Denny's incident, three white or Hispanic men with covered faces and hooded sweatshirts entered the restaurant and ordered the employees and patrons to the ground around 6:45 a.m., authorities said. The men, one of whom had a silver automatic handgun, took money from the register and an employee, he said. They also kicked a waitress but no one was hurt.
Other recent robberies have been conducted in the same manner. For instance, authorities said two armed suspects wearing hooded sweatshirts entered a Vallejo Hollywood Video store, told everyone to lie down and took money from the register Friday night.
Daly City responding officers found freshly trampled ivy outside Denny's and leading to the freeway, leading investigators to believe the suspects possibly parked a getaway car on adjacent southbound Interstate 280 near the state Highway 1 interchange, Edwards said.
Edwards noted a rash of carjackings spread throughout Daly City a few years ago, a copycat trend his investigators are hoping does not repeat after the Denny's takeover, especially because these types of robberies have the potential for violence.
"I don't know if they consciously [copycatted] or if it's just something that happened," Edwards said.
Violent crimes at Serramonte Center are uncommon, Edwards said. Patrons and storeowners there said just one violent situation was cause for concern, however, and that the existing security is not always enough.
Massoud Torabian, who owns Fantasy Jewels in the adjacent shopping center, said he had a $2,000 chain stolen recently and that security was not able to find the suspect despite an overhead security camera.
"Of course we are worried," said Torabian, who only half-jokingly suggested that the increase in robberies might stop if the economy turned around.
Denny's and Serramonte patron Alberto Gonzales said there is always concern that a dangerous situation such as a takeover robbery could occur, but that it should not deter people from going out to eat.
"You never know how you're going to react in a situation like that," he said.
Edwards said there will be no stepped up enforcement around Denny's or the main mall because there has only been one incident.
Anyone with information or was in the area on Friday morning is asked to call Detective Frank Mangan at (650) 991-8147.