Drivers deliver pizzas more cautiously after attacks

Marissa Conrad

They won’t argue with receiving a few extra dollars, but in Evanston, pizza delivery drivers have picked up a more important tip: you can never be too careful.

Earlier this month, a delivery man from Papa John’s Pizza, 1743 Benson Ave., was robbed at gunpoint while delivering a pizza in south Evanston.

On Halloween a group of teenagers threw a pumpkin at a driver from Papa Romeo’s Pizza, a carry-out restaurant in Skokie, while he was delivering a pizza in Evanston. The boys then stole his car and crashed it into a fence.

For local pizza places, these incidents have been a reminder to put safety first — even before promises of a piping-hot pizza in 10 minutes or less.

“If drivers aren’t comfortable, they’ll go to some place where they are safe and they’ll call us, and they’ll say, ‘I don’t want to deliver that pizza,'” Papa John’s manager Ellen Nero said. “And we’ll call the police.”

Evanston Police Department encourages drivers to call when a street or house looks too dangerous for a delivery, Deputy Chief Joe Bellino of EPD said.

“If they’ve got some suspicions about a particular delivery and they let us know, we’ll try to be in the area,” Bellino said.

Nero said the employee robbed on Jan. 8 is doing “fine.” Papa John’s drivers have to come back to the restaurant after every delivery to drop off money, so robbers “can’t get that much,” she added.

At Domino’s Pizza, 1168 Dodge Ave., employees are not allowed to carry more than $20 out of the store, assistant manager Carlos Castillo said.

Although the Evanston restaurant has been open for less than a month, Castillo said the Domino’s locations in Chicago “had times even when two girls robbed a driver.”

“A lot of the times they’ll give a wrong address with the wrong phone number and they’ll be waiting for you,” Castillo said. “Usually it’s for money. And if they can get a hold of the food, they take it too.”

Getting hit with food is more unusual, but Papa Romeo’s delivery driver Basiliy Kurkov said he “wasn’t really surprised” when fellow driver Dharmender Kumar was hit in the chest with a pumpkin and robbed of about $60 on Halloween.

Kumar also was robbed at gunpoint several years ago, and last year someone took an entire pizza from him.

“I’ve never been in a situation like that, but it happens,” Kurkov said. “If we go into a bad area, we usually go with more than one driver.”

At Giordano’s Pizzeria, 500 Davis St., new drivers are trained by riding around Evanston with more experienced employees, manager Adrian Ciocan said.

“We know that certain areas are more dangerous,” Ciocan said. “But there are details that only the drivers know.”

Drivers are often more aware than a criminal may think. Robbers may try to take money or a pizza, but often, they aren’t successful, Kurkov said.

Reach Marissa Conrad at [email protected].