Crime & Courts

Food truck robbery in north Wichita third one in recent weeks

People order food at the Noble House food truck at the Pop-up Urban Park in downtown Wichita. (May 17, 2016)
People order food at the Noble House food truck at the Pop-up Urban Park in downtown Wichita. (May 17, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

News of yet another food truck robbery sent a ripple of concern through food truck operators at the pocket park Tuesday in downtown Wichita.

“It’s a little bit worrisome,” conceded Jodi Buchanan, who works in BS Sandwich Press, one of four food trucks working the lunch crowd Tuesday.

“Just even knowing a seed has been planted that these are, at times, cash-heavy businesses that don’t necessarily always have security – that’s a little bit worrisome.”

The robbery of a taco truck late Monday night in north Wichita was the second robbery of that type in two days and the third in recent weeks, police said.

“We’re looking at all of the food truck robberies to see if they’re connected,” Wichita police Lt. James Espinoza said Tuesday.

The most recent robbery occurred at 9 p.m. Monday in the 2400 block of North Broadway, Officer Pol Cruz said. Two armed men entered a taco truck parked in a parking lot and ordered the two teenage employees to the floor.

They then took money from the register’s cash drawer and left the area on foot, Cruz said, running north first and then heading west.

A taco truck at 225 E. 29th St. North was robbed at about 1 a.m. Sunday by two armed men who ran from the crime scene, police said. In both cases, the suspects had their faces covered.

Anyone with information about Monday night’s robbery is being asked to call Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111 or the police investigations section at 316-268-4646.

Police said another food truck was robbed a couple of weeks ago.

Steve Nelson, manager of Charlie’s Pizza/Taco food truck, said he was troubled by news of the latest robbery.

“That’s kind of scary that they’re starting to attack the food trucks,” he said.

Nelson said he likes large food truck events like Final Friday or Festival at the Fountain because there’s safety in numbers.

“Nothing’s going to happen to us when there’s an abundance of trucks,” Nelson said.

The owners of the food truck are “pro-gun” and embrace conceal-carry, he said, but that doesn’t mean he’s trigger-happy.

“Quite honestly, if someone’s going to come up and put a gun in my face and say, ‘I want your money,’ I’m going to give it to them,” Nelson said. “They need it more than I do.”

Still, he said, “If you want to rob me, you need to do some soul-searching. Work for what you need. Don’t take what you need.”

Chef Akamu, owner of Noble House Hawaiian Plate Lunch, said food truck operators can protect themselves by being careful where they do business.

“I’m not concerned (about crime) because we go to the right places, and we’re not there too long,” Akamu said. “If you put yourself in the right areas, you’re not going to have to deal with that element.”

The irony about the recent food truck robberies, Nelson said, is that he’s seeing less cash used in transactions. It’s almost all plastic now.

“Nobody really carries cash on ’em any more,” he said.

Buchanan, with BS Sandwich Press, said there are steps food truck operators can take to protect themselves. One is to be part of a group of trucks.

Another is to set up in areas that have security cameras or security guards in the parking lot or entry way.

“For the most part, it (crime) is not something we’re too worried about on a day-to-day basis,” Buchanan said.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger