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Oakland police released surveillance video of the April 13 robbery at Milano Restaurant in Oakland. (OPD video)
OAKLAND _ Following the recent rash of restaurant robberies, merchants and city officials met Wednesday to discuss strategies for increasing the safety of Oakland businesses.

The meeting between merchants, police and the mayor's public safety director was ``long overdue,'' said Antoinette Radwan, whose Red Boy Pizza eatery was robbed March 31, just 10 days after the family-owned restaurant opened on Leimert Boulevard.

``They heard our plea that the police department needs more help and are understaffed,'' Radwan said. The only disappointment, she added, was that Mayor Ron Dellums was not at the meeting he initiated. He is in South Africa, where he received a human rights award.

The meeting at City Hall came as police were questioning a 22-year-old man today in connection with the East Bay robberies and a 16-year-old was charged in court with multiple counts of armed robbery and false imprisonment.

The 22-year-old man, whose name was not released, was arrested on an outstanding warrant in another case, police said.

In addition, police ``have very solid leads on two more suspects in the robberies who have not yet been arrested,'' Officer Roland Holmgren said.

``I feel an arrest is imminent,'' he said during a news conference at City Hall.

There, police came under fire from a reporter who questioned whether the department was giving more attention to the robberies than to the wave of shootings in recent months.


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Oakland police take all crime seriously, Assistant Chief Howard Jordan said. But, he added, far fewer people are willing to come forward in homicides than in the robberies, making it harder to combat the killings.

Authorities confirmed Wednesday a 16-year-old suspect arrested last week admitted involvement in the robbery of Milano Ristorante on Grand Avenue in Oakland on April 13.

Tanom ``Little T'' Domingue of West Oakland told police he knew the robbery was going to happen and got a share of the stolen money. He claimed he got $100 from the Milano robbery.

Bail was set at $310,000 today for Domingue. He was charged with multiple counts of robbery and false imprisonment in the takeover robbery of Milano.

During a brief appearance in court, Domingue was ordered to stay away from victims of the robbery. His arraignment was put over until tomorrow for plea entry.

Domingue will be prosecuted as an adult and has been charged with five counts of robbery with a firearm and five counts of false imprisonment in connection the Milano robbery. Those charges stem from robbing five people and holding an additional five captive in the restaurant.

His arrest could be a step toward finding other suspects in the robberies that began March 31.

The first six takeover robberies occurred at five restaurants in Oakland and one in Berkeley, police said. But last week Furenzu in Emeryville was targeted, they said. The robberies in the three cities may not be related, however, police said.

Police declined to give further details because the investigation is ongoing.

``Before we label them as one crew we have to have all our ducks in a row,'' Holmgren said.

Domingue, who has a lengthy juvenile record, was arrested Friday by Oakland police on an outstanding warrant.

Authorities said the boy, who will turn 17 in July, has a prior conviction for his role in a Vallejo robbery in which a person was shot. Police could not immediately provide the date of that robbery.

Police have said the takeover robberies were committed by ``kids'' as young as 15 to 18 looking for easy money and a quick adrenaline rush. No one has been seriously injured in the robberies, the suspects tend to get more violent when their orders are not complied with, police have said.

In some of the Oakland robberies, the suspects made off with about $1,000 or more, often emptying the pockets and wallets of stunned restaurant patrons.

The measures proposed Wednesday to increase safety around businesses include crime prevention training for merchants; improved street and building exterior lighting; and financial assistance for architectural upgrades.

Other proposals focus on more communication with police and the department's Neighborhood Services division. 

Last on the list of nine proposals is following through on the mayor's plan to increase the department ranks to 803 officers by the end of the year.

``We are working to get more police on the streets,'' said Joseph Radwan, who was working with his brother at Red Boy Pizza the night it was robbed. ``I also want the people of Oakland to not be scared to go out and enjoy themselves.''

Police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are now offering up to $7,500 in each of the Oakland robberies for information leading to the arrest of the suspects. Anyone with information can call police at 510-238-3326 or Crime Stoppers at 510-777-8572 or 510-777-3211.

Staff writer Angela Woodall can be reached at awoodall@bayareanewsgroup.com or at 510-208-6413.