Risky Business: Pizza Delivery Drivers

Liz Carey

This is the next article in WorkersCompensation.com’s “Risky Business” series, as we explore what is it like to be employed, and the employers, in the United States’ most dangerous workplaces.

Indianapolis, IN (WorkersCompensation.com) – Rising violence towards pizza delivery drivers since 2010 has made it one of the country’s most dangerous jobs.

But police officers across the country, as well as some pizza chains, are working with their drivers to ensure their safety.

In August 2018, LaVon Drake, 24, was shot while delivering pizza for Papa John’s Pizza in Indianapolis. Drake was shot with two different weapons, including a rifle, when three men, Juwuan Terry, 18; Jason Epeards, 18, and Jasean Dale, 19, lured Drake to a vacant rental house where they robbed and killed him.

Police found the three men at their home eating the pizza they had stolen from Drake.

In 2013, a study of workplace crimes by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) listed the top eight most-dangerous occupations and what makes those top eight jobs susceptible to crime. Pizza delivery driving was one of the top.

Ronald Strehle, a crime prevention officer with the Dayton Police Department in Ohio, said that he’s noticed an increase in pizza delivery driver attacks since 2010.

“Over the course of one summer, we saw (driver) robberies go up by 400 percent,” he said.

Pizza delivery drivers can make easy targets. They usually work alone; they carry cash and food; they are presumably unarmed and they have a car, as an added bonus.

Strehle said he saw a pattern among the crimes. Would-be thieves would call a pizza place, order a pizza delivered to an abandoned house or construction site, and then rob them. In 2014, 20 pizza delivery drivers were shot death in the US while working.

Despite the risk, Strehle said, many pizza shops don’t provide safety training.

However, many pizza store owners have told drivers to carry weapons in order to protect themselves. In Detroit, a Jets Pizza franchise made every driver travel with an armed escort.

In St. Louis, two drivers were killed in six months, prompting the St. Louis PD use some of its undercover officers to be pizza delivery men in order to thwart thieves. In Dayton, Strehle said, a sting operation where an officer was undercover as a delivery driver resulted in the officer shooting a would-be assailant.

Dayton police officers started a training program for the pizza delivery drivers. Most of the training centers around common sense — don’t deliver to sketchy locations, pay attention to your instincts, be on the lookout for unusual orders like “any toppings” and “any kind of soda.” Strehle said since the program started, driver assaults are down.

In Indianapolis, pizza delivery drivers said they stress safety in the shadow of Drake’s attack.

“I mean it really makes me sad, you know we’re just out here doing our job,” Topper’s Pizza delivery driver Tyler Gadberry told WXIN. The story has left drivers like him shaken.

“Anything can happen at any time.”

At Topper’s pizza in Indianapolis, team leaders told WXIN that they stress safety above all else.

“You have to be very careful,” pizza co. employee Kimberly Charles said. “We have an entire delivery area that we don’t go to because of reasons like that.”

“It’s basically our gut, if we don’t feel like it’s right we just don’t do it,” she said.

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