It’s easy to see how you could get a false sense of security working in an Anchorage coffee stand like the Perkup Espresso at C Street and Potter.
Heather O’Brien is on a first name basis with just about every customer who drives up. Some don’t even bother to order. O’Brien already knows what they want.
“They really do take care of us," says O'Brien, who appreciates how her customers have been looking out for her since Samantha Koenig's disappearance from a Midtown coffee stand on February 1.
“All our customers ask us if we’ve heard anything,” says O’Brien. “Everybody wants to know if she’s OK. That’s what we’re all hoping to hear.”
But given the nature of their business, O’Brien and other baristas believe it’s likely, that the man who police believe kidnapped Koenig, was probably someone she knew. Her disappearance has awakened them to their own vulnerabilities.
That’s why the owners of Perkup Espresso, the Anchorage Police, a security company and other volunteers teamed up to offer the baristas a safety class on Tuesday night.
More than 70 coffee stand workers filled the Anchorage Police Training Center, including O’Brien, who says she’s been thinking a lot about safety since Koenig’s kidnapping.
“I’m hoping I can learn something about how to be more aware,” said O’Brien. "You see somebody every day and you come to trust them. I think it's good to be careful."
Besides baristas, there were also coffee stand owners like Stephanie Mattson of Wasilla, who recently opened the Matanuska Coffee Company. She brought her crew with her.
“Just being young women, they can be a target. And that’s kind of scary,” says Mattson.
Lt. Dave Parker told the baristas that there’s a lot they can do to protect themselves – and that’s mainly to develop a security plan and be consistent about following it.
Parker also encouraged the baristas to keep logs of customers who behave strangely and to have an escape plan.
From self defense to security, the baristas heard dozens of pointers on how to do their jobs more safely.
“The most important thing for them to go home with,” said Parker, "is to think things through in advance and ask themselves, ‘OK, if I am confronted with a robber, what do I do?’”
Asking those questions now, Parker says, could make all the difference someday.