Wednesday’s Robberies Bring Berkeley’s July Total to 45

By Kristin McFarland
Saturday July 26, 2008 - 08:47:00 PM

A rash of robberies this week brought Berkeley to a total of 45 this month, up from 25 in July 2007. 

Wednesday alone saw two commercial robberies, two muggings and a third attempted mugging. This number does not include the many auto break-ins that occur every day. 

“We have seen an increase in robberies this month,” said Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, the Community Services Bureau Supervisor. “Whether that is going to be a persistent trend, we won’t know till next month.” 

According to Kusmiss, the trend extends across the Bay Area, with many nearby communities also suffering from an abnormally large number of robberies. 

“We’re not sure why there has been such an increase, but we’re certainly feeling the impact,” Kusmiss said. 

Berkeley saw 34 robberies in April, 35 in May and 33 in June. July’s total might reach 50 by the end of the month. Kusmiss said that a typical monthly average ranges from 25-40, but this summer has seen continually high numbers. 

On Wednesday, a Berkeley man was robbed at 12:07 a.m. in the 2000 block of Emerson Street. The suspect approached the victim from behind, shoved what the victim thought was a gun into his back and took his cell phone, keys and wallet. A second suspect approached the victim from and took his bag, filled with clothes. 

At 11:56 a.m., Environmental Concepts, in the 1600 block of 5th Street, was robbed. Two suspects threatened the two employees, a Walnut Creek resident and a San Rafael resident, with a pistol and ordered them to open the store’s safe and cash register. The suspects also took the two employees’ wallets, leaving with approximately $820 cash. 

At 8:59 p.m., a cashier at U.S. Gas Station, in the 3000 block of Shattuck Avenue, was shoved repeatedly by a suspect who took approximately $200 cash from the register that was open while the cashier helped a customer. 

At 11:27 p.m., a Berkeley man was threatened with what appeared to be a sawed-off shotgun in the 2400 block of Blake Street and forced to give up his wallet and keys. The victim said he was approached by one suspect with a gun while the other two suspects stood behind him. 

On Tuesday, July 22 at 12:05 a.m., a West Berkeley man was robbed in the 2200 block of 7th Street. Two suspects approached him from the left and from behind, one of them holding a pistol to the victim’s cheek and taking his wallet, while the second suspect riffled through the victim’s bag. 

Today, Berkeley police issued photos of one of two suspects who robbed a Wells Fargo Bank in the Andronico’s Supermarket at 1444 University Ave. on July 18. 

“With robbery, unlike other crimes, the trend tends to be one suspect or a group of suspects, so when we can make one arrest, it will stop a series of crimes,” Kusmiss said. 

Although she said the Berkeley police have not identified a particular series in this month’s rash of crimes, in part because of the vague descriptions understandably given by victims, Kusmiss did say that robbers will keep using the same tactics in the same community because they have had past success. 

“Robbers are opportunistic,” Kusmiss said.  

To protect yourself, police stress the importance of awareness: turn off your cell phone or MP3 player, walk confidently, and pay attention to the behavior of someone making you uncomfortable.