SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Surveillance video shows what one Gaslamp Quarter restaurant owner calls a growing problem: thieves grabbing plated food in restaurant patios.
Saturday night, around 9:30 p.m., at Royal India restaurant on Market Street. A group of convention-goers has rented out the entire restaurant, and some are dining on the patio.
Video shows as the server clears some plates at a patio table, an arm reaches in from beyond the patio partition and grabs a plate. Turns out that man was just getting started.
A short time later, owner Sam Kambo says the same man was back, lurking near another patio table with a flexible baton wrapped around his neck.
“He grabbed bread, started dabbing it in the dish and started eating it,” said Kambo. "He then started eating more bread."
The customers left the table.
“They were shocked. They were absolutely shocked,” said Kambo.
The man spent more than five minutes helping himself to what was on the plates, before finally leaving. Kambo says scenes like this are becoming all too familiar.
It cost $6,000 for Kambo to build a parklet, which opened about a year ago. Because of nightly food thefts, it was shut down after a week.
The patio closest to the restaurant remained open, but in the past three months, food thefts have remained a common occurrence.
“Typically, what happens … if the guests are having a meal, somebody comes running, grabs food from the plate and runs away,” said Kambo.
Kambo says the customers who experience the theft always say the same thing.
“They tell me they thought San Diego was a safe city. After seeing this, they don't think it's safe anymore,” said Kambo.
Kambo says his restaurant also deals with frequent vandalism, usually in the overnight hours.
He says that, combined with the food thefts, equals an image problem.
“Such incidents ruin the image of San Diego, my worry about this type of behavior is the tourism industry will suffer," said Kambo.
For an industry and restaurants like Royal India, still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, Kambo says it's an issue that local business owners can ill afford to see served up.
Kambo is calling for more homeless outreach in the area and more police presence.
While Kambo filed a report for the most recent theft, a police spokesperson says they don't have any reports for other similar thefts in the area, adding the Gaslamp area is covered nightly by two bike teams.