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Longtime California family business folds up tents over recent spike in crime, moves to Alabama where they've found 'hard-working people just living their life'

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Image source: KGO-TV video screenshot

A longtime California family business grew so tired of the spike in break-ins, thefts, vandalism, and other crimes against their Bay Area laundromats that they folded up their tents recently and moved to Alabama — which is refreshingly full of "hard-working people just living their life," Derek Drake told KGO-TV.

What are the details?

Drake and his family have owned laundromats in the East Bay for decades, KGO said, adding that Drake's father Art Thoms — a former Oakland Raiders football player — told Drake "my teammates laughed at me when I started buying laundromats 45 years ago."

However, the well-documented spike in crime in the Bay Area of late changed the business perspective of Drake's family.

Image source: KGO-TV video screenshot

"This is my sixth year of ownership [at his Lake Merritt laundromat], and I can't remember a time in the first five years where anybody ever tried to break in," Drake told KGO during a Zoom interview.

Image source: KGO-TV video screenshot

"Three out of past four nights people have tried to get into my laundromat — out of four nights ... that's crazy!" he added to the station.

Drake shared numerous surveillance videos with KGO, including one that shows a driver ramming a truck through another laundromat's front window and stealing the ATM.

Image source: KGO-TV video screenshot

"That was about a $30,000 bill on that one," Drake told the station.

In another clip just days later, crooks are seen prying open the change machine, KGO noted.

"I got hit for $5,000 in just cash," he recalled to the station while recalling one of the thieves struggling to hold a newly heavy backpack — a moment that sometimes elicits a chuckle: "It's pretty comical to watch them run across the street with a bag of quarters."

Image source: KGO-TV video screenshot

Drake told KGO he tried going cashless — but to no avail, as more videos showed break-ins continuing unabated, including one that captured a crowbar-wielding woman trying to pry open an office door.

Image source: KGO-TV video screenshot

Alabama getaway

So Drake and his whole family left for Alabama in June, the station said.

Image source: KGO-TV video screenshot

The difference was noticeable, he added to KGO: "It's just hard-working people just living their life."

More from KGO:

Derek's family isn't alone. California's population fell by more than 180,000 in 2020 and has declined two years in a row. While the numbers of people who left the state are still a tiny percentage of the total population, Derek says many of his friends have plans to leave too, citing similar difficulties.
There are more people leaving California than those moving in. Many are wondering if the California Dream is still alive.

Drake's family just sold their Berkeley laundromat, and they're thinking about doing the same with their Oakland location, the station said, as they try to build up their business in Alabama.

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