Food delivery drivers stepping up safety
BY JEFF BRANSCOME
Andrew Whitaker is aware of the dangers facing delivery drivers.He was hired as a driver at Lin’s Express in Spotsylvania County shortly after a delivery driver at a Chinese restaurant in Fredericksburg was murdered on the job in 2008.
So, with permission from his boss, he started carrying a .40-caliber Glock in a visible holster at his side during deliveries. Lin’s Express is a Chinese restaurant off Tidewater Trail not far from Shannon Airport.
“Nowadays, you just don’t know what you’re getting into,” said Whitaker, 30. “Walking up to a stranger’s house with a pocketful of money, you’re very vulnerable.”
That’s why the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office is hosting a free safety awareness class for delivery drivers from 9 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., July 18, in the Public Safety Building, 9119 Dean Ridings Lane, near the county courthouse.
In addition to the class for drivers, the Sheriff’s Office is offering a series of programs this month to help young people improve their safety awareness. The first one, Safety 101, is on Monday at 10 a.m., and is geared toward those ages 8 to 14.
Three delivery drivers in Spotsylvania have been robbed this year, but nobody has been arrested in the cases.
“We want to reach out and do everything we can to try to keep those drivers safe,” Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Harvey said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Spotsylvania Sheriff Roger Harris said some criminals are using a cellphone application that disguises their phone numbers. Fake numbers, which actually belong to people not making the orders, appear on recipients’ caller IDs.
Drivers should call back to verify orders if something seems suspicious, Harvey said.
“If you don’t have a telephone number that you can call back and verify it’s not worth delivering three pizzas if someone gets hurt or killed,” Harris said.
The sheriff and others haven’t forgotten the murder four years ago of a delivery driver from a Chinese restaurant in Fredericksburg. That’s what prompted Whitaker, the delivery driver for Lin’s Express, to carry a gun on the job.
In July 2008, Yong Hui Zhang was abducted and killed after he made a delivery for his family’s China Express restaurant, which has since closed.
Jermaine L. Montgomery was sentenced to three life sentences in the case after pleading guilty to capital murder, robbery and abduction. His accomplice, Marcey White, pleaded guilty to six charges—including abduction and carjacking—and was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
“I don’t want that to happen on my watch or anybody else’s watch,” Sheriff Harris said. “So in order to try to prevent that, education for me is key.”
Whitaker says he hopes the mere sight of his gun, which he hasn’t had to use, will deter criminals. Still, he said he plans to attend the class being offered by the Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m curious to see what they will recommend.”
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
SPOTSYLVANIA SHERIFF OFFERS SAFETY CLASSES
The Spotsylvania County Sher iff’s Office is offering a number of free classes in July for a campaign called “The Sheriff’s Safety Awareness Program.” The 10 a.m. classes will last about an hour and a half, and are for those ages 8 to 18. Residents must register for each class by contacting 1st Sgt. S.D. Jones at 540/507- 7107 or sjones@spotsylva nia.va.us.
Drivers interested in attending the food-delivery safety class should also contact Jones. Spotsylvania residents are giv en priority for the classes, but the Sheriff’s Office will accept people from other localities if there is space.
Safety awareness classes
July 9: Safety 101 (ages 8– 14)
July 12: Gun Safety (ages 14–18)
July 16: Internet Safety (ages 8–14)
July 19: Female Personal Safety (ages 14–18)
July 23: Drugs and Alcohol (ages 8–14)
July 26: Teen Driving Awareness (ages 14–18)
July 30: Bullying (ages 8– 14)