Alert Employee Thwarts Attempted Burglary at Siam Orchid Restaurant

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
James Bice, an employee at Siam Orchid, an Orinda Thai restaurant, thought a car parked outside the eatery in the middle of the night was suspicious. Shortly after noticing the car, Bice heard a loud crash and witnessed a man trying to enter the restaurant through the freshly broken front door. Bice was able to scare the burglar off.

    In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Aug. 30, a black car parked in front of Siam Orchid, a Thai restaurant in Orinda Village, causing James Bice to become suspicious.
    Bice, an employee at Siam Orchid, said he noticed the car at about 1 a.m. in the usually deserted lot. He thought the situation odd since generally no one is parked at that hour in the small parking lot in front of Siam Orchid and the other shops in the small shopping center across the street from the Orinda Library.
    Siam Orchid offers northern Thai cuisine and operates a full-service bar. The eatery, which serves both dine-in and dine-out lunch and dinner, is located at 23 Orinda Way, along the Village’s main thoroughfare and not far from the Orinda Police Department and City Hall.
    Staying late to clean up after a particularly busy day, Bice turned out the lights and used the restroom. At approximately 1:30 a.m., Bice heard a loud crash and saw a man trying to enter the restaurant through the now-broken glass front door.
    “The burglar saw me,” said Bice, “and ran away.”
    When Bice rushed to the front of the shop, he said the black car was already gone.
    Bice immediately went to the home of the owner, Pepsi Phunmongkol, to inform him of what had happened. Bice called police and an Orinda officer responded to the scene. Orinda Police detectives are actively working on the case, according to Phunmongkol, but have not yet issued a final report.
    Phunmongkol told his employees at Siam Orchid to be strong, saying it was tough right now for staff after the break-in attempt.
    “For myself, I think we must be strong, be prepared,” Phunmongkol said. “I’ve been in business for three decades and I wonder why we were targeted now.”
    Bice added, “We’ve had no problems for 10 years, but a year ago, someone also tried to break in.”
    That attempt was also unsuccessful.
    Bice added he hopes this doesn’t signal a new trend facing local businesses in Orinda.
    According to crime statistics posted on the Orinda Police Department’s website, there were 12 commercial burglaries from August 2021 through August 2022, which is down from 15 during the same period in 2020-21.
    Orinda Police Chief Ryan Sullivan, confirming the numbers, said he hasn’t seen an increase in commercial burglaries in the City.
    Nonetheless, Sullivan, who began his appointment as the City’s most senior public safety official on Sept. 20, 2021, said it pays for businesses to be prepared.
    “Businesses should have bright outdoor lighting, a security system with an audible alarm and good cameras that can pick up indoor and outdoor activity,” Sullivan said. “And don’t leave your daily sales in the till.”
    “I wish I had a magic answer to what businesses can do to be safe, but it comes down to taking basic security precautions,” Sullivan added.
    Sullivan stressed that not only do basic security measures, especially prominently placed video cameras, deter criminals, but they also aid the police should a crime take place by providing images of suspects and their vehicles.
    “Smile, You’re on Camera” signs are also a good deterrent, Sullivan said.
    “Basically, you want to make it really uncomfortable for criminals to break-in,” said Sullivan.
    Phunmongkol is taking a pragmatic outlook.
    “I tell my employees to go back to work, be alert, look around,” Phunmongkol said. “What else can you do?”

Jeff Heyman can be reached at

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