ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) – St. Louis pizzeria employees are concerned after two delivery drivers were pummeled with bricks this week at an abandoned home at the 7100-block of Virginia Avenue. These are the latest in a string of similar attacks.
On Friday evening, a FOX 2 crew rode along with an Elicia’s Pizza delivery driver who describes what it’s like to live with the risk that he could be next.
Joe Heintz has been tossing dough and bringing pizza to hungry south St. Louis residents for six years now. Thursday’s assault hit close to home, since he also delivered a pizza to Virginia Avenue that night.
He says, “You definitely think afterwards you hear something that, if that was me, I don’t know what I would be doing right now.”
Heintz says Elicia’s doesn’t avoid delivering to rougher neighborhoods. Instead, managers try to preempt assaults by cross-checking phone numbers and addresses to make sure the call is legitimate. In the latest attacks, pizza was ordered to the same vacant address.
Heintz explains, “We’ll catch it inside, so we don’t have to get there and then get robbed or beat up or whatever happens.” The delivery driver also has his own strategies of staying safe: “I try to be as quick as possible; I don’t count my money until I get into the car. I’d rather be safe.”
Meanwhile in St. Louis County, police are dealing with a similar series of robberies, and even murders. After the second delivery driver death, county police began an undercover pizza delivery operation. So far, St. Louis County Police Spokesman Randy Vaughn says it’s working.
Vaughn adds, “This really isn’t about pizza, as much as it is about bad decisions based on violence, based on money, based on most likely drugs. The pizza is just the opportunity to fulfill these bad decisions that are being made.”
The recent violence is bringing competing pizzerias together. Last week, more than one hundred pizzeria employees met with a security expert to discuss safety skills. And Heintz says they’ll often receive calls from competitors in town, warning of recent attacks: “We’ve had Imo’s call us numerous times and say hey, you guys are the only ones open still, just giving you the heads up, we had two guys robbed tonight.”
Heintz says it’s unfortunate, but if you want to be a delivery driver these days, the threat of being attacked is just part of the equation: “If you’re afraid, I guess don’t deliver, just make pizzas inside. I do that too and it’s a lot safer.”
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