Berkeley Robberies Up in July

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday July 31, 2008 - 10:05:00 AM

A rash of robberies in the past week brings Berkeley to a total of 50 this month, up from 25 in July 2007. 

In the past week, 10 robberies have been committed, which does not include the large number of auto break-ins that occur every day. This week’s include one commercial robbery and five muggings. Wednesday, July 23, alone saw two commercial robberies, two muggings and a third attempted mugging. 

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

According to Kusmiss, the trend extends across the Bay Area with many nearby communities also suffering from an abnormally high 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 reached 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 Thursday, July 24, just after midnight, two suspects stole a tray of donuts from Kingpin Donuts. When the cashier tried to stop the thieves, one of the suspects struck him. No cash was stolen, only donuts. 

Also on July 24, just before 1 a.m., two suspects attacked a man at Kittredge and Shattuck, threatened him with a gun and took his cash. One of the suspects was caught after a witness called the police after seeing the suspect flee the scene. 

On Saturday, July 26, just after 6 p.m., four suspects were involved in the theft of a man’s bicycle, backpack and iPod in the 2000 block of Allston Way. The victim said that one suspect took his bike, but he pursued the thief and recovered the bicycle. Unfortunately, another three suspects then attacked the victim, hit him repeatedly and stole his bike and other belongings. 

At 4:55 p.m. on Monday, July 28, in the 2200 block of Shattuck Avenue, a woman’s wallet was stolen by a male suspect who threatened the victim with a knife. 

On Tuesday, July 29, at 11:07 a.m., in the 3100 block of California Street, a suspect punched a man in the stomach and head before stealing his guitar and fleeing the scene. 

Last Thursday, 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 BDP 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 with those measures. 

“Robbers are opportunistic,” Kusmiss said, they take advantage of a particular set of circumstances.  

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.