Page One

Three robberies on Virginia Street prompt Berkeley police warning

Scott Morris (BCN)
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 02:34:00 PM

Residents of North Berkeley have been urged to stay vigilant after a series of three robberies of pedestrians in the last week that might be related to three other robberies in November. 

"Based on the descriptions of the suspects, and the geographic proximity of the crime scenes, detectives believe that the (December) cases are related," police said in a statement. "There is also the possibility that the robberies are related to three cases from November." 

The three robberies in December all happened on Virginia Street between 7 and 11 p.m. The most recent robbery happened on Tuesday, when a couple walking in the area of Spruce and Virginia streets were robbed at gunpoint, police said. 

The couple was approached by two men in their 20s or 30s at about 7:15 p.m. One of the suspects pulled out a gun and they took the victims' phones and backpacks, fleeing east on Virginia, police said. 

A suspect in a similar robbery a few days earlier had been arrested, but was later released without charges because of a lack of evidence, according to police. 

Police had broadcast a description of that suspect following a robbery on Friday. A 27-year-old man was robbed as he was walking home in the area of Walnut and Virginia streets shortly before 11 p.m. 

Two men, one armed with a gun, demanded his backpack and then got into a car and fled south on Walnut, according to police.  

San Francisco police later stopped a similar car and arrested the driver, thinking he was one of the two robbers, but investigators never located any of the stolen property and eventually released the driver. 

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the same suspects are responsible for another robbery a day prior. In that robbery, another 27-year-old man was walking in the area of Virginia and Arch streets at about 8:30 p.m. 

Like the other two victims, two robbers approached them, one had a gun, and they took his property. 

Three other robberies in November fit the same description and happened in the same general area. On Nov. 25, two women, ages 24 and 26, were walking together in the 2400 block of Ridge Road at 7:38 p.m. when two men tried to wrench their purses from their arms. The women wouldn't let go, and eventually the would-be robbers got into a car and fled empty-handed.  

On Nov. 22, a 17-year-old University of California at Berkeley student was walking in the area of Bowditch Street and Dwight Way at 11:20 p.m. when three men snuck up on him and pulled a knife. The student turned over his backpack and the suspects fled.  

On Nov. 15, two suspects grabbed a cellphone from a 24-year-old man as he was walking in the 1500 block of Oxford Street around 11:30 p.m., police said.  

Police did not provide a detailed description of the suspects but advised residents, particularly in the neighborhoods where the robberies happened, to be aware of their surroundings, travel in groups if possible and not to have their phone visible while walking.  

Anyone with information about the cases has been asked to call Berkeley police at (510) 981-5742.