GLENDALE, Ariz. — After 13 years of peacefully operating, a West Valley business was robbed at gunpoint and the owner correlates it to police staffing shortages.
Maribel Lugo Padilla, the owner of La Tienda near 59th Avenue and Camelback Road said her business had only flourished and grown, but in the recent months, “things have taken a turn.”
On Monday, her business was robbed at gunpoint for the first time since opening 13 years ago.
Padilla said the man claimed to be interested in sending a box to Guatemala and after being told how much it would cost, he stepped outside the store, telling employees he was going to confirm the purchase with a family member waiting in the car.
About three minutes later, the man — who Maribel said looked like a construction worker and was wearing a mask and gloves — pulled out a handgun, climbed over the counter and demanded money.
The armed robbery was caught on surveillance cameras. The two employees appear to be surprised but comply and give him the cash.
The suspect then leaves the store walking away with thousands of dollars as if nothing had happened, according to Padilla.
One of the employees called her crying and told her what happened. Padilla was near the business and asked him to call 911.
“I never expected that a person would jump on the counter and point a gun at them,” Maribel said. “Who wouldn’t be scared? Especially when he cocked the barrel as if he was going to shoot them.”
She is surprised the brazen attack even happened, despite multiple security cameras.
“This year, it’s been the worst of them all,” the store owner said.
In the last year, her business and others have been vandalized and drug activity has increased on the block.
During this time the Phoenix Police Department has faced staffing shortages and she believes there’s a correlation.
“I believe so because if there is no staff, it is like me, if I don’t have personnel then I can’t cover everything I need, then what happens? there is a lack of control of things,” she said.
Currently Phoenix police would need 454 officers to be fully staffed, although there are 29 recruits in the academy.
Despite the staffing shortages, the department said their focus is on patrolling and assuring they have officers to respond to 911 calls.
Officers responded to her business five minutes after reporting the robbery and told her that they have increased patrols in her area. But she wants to see more done.
That’s why she also reached out to city councilwoman Betty Guardado, whose office told her via email, that they will look into the problem.
“What if later on thieves feel like shooting us, that's my fear,” Maribel said.
Maribel hopes something will get done before things get worse.
As she is now investing in more security measures, she hopes she won’t have to sell or move locations.
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