Police increase presence on UC Berkeley campus after string of robberies

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A Tuesday morning theft marked the fifth robbery around the UC Berkeley campus in the past week.

UCPD and Berkeley Police Department have yet to make an arrest in a string of robberies that began last Thursday, but UCPD has increased police presence on campus. The incidents took place in areas ranging from North Gate to Oxford Street to Channing Way.

“Seeing so many (robberies) in a close proximity is cause for concern,” said UCPD Lt. Eric Tejada.

The thieves were armed in three of the five incidents, one of which was UCPD also recorded as an assault. Another of the five incidents was averted when the victim yelled and resisted.

UCPD has created a Special Duty Unit of officers who are deployed for crime suppression on campus, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

“We’re doing uniform patrols,” Tejada said. “We’re getting people out on bicycles and on foot … We’re just trying to have our officers, if they have any free time, to spend it on campus, Getting people out there definitely can be a deterrent, and that’s what we’re hoping.”

Despite recent events, Tejada said robberies on UC Berkeley property have decreased by 50 percent compared to data from 2012.

UCPD is also collaborating with BPD to staff a joint Robbery Suppression Team to patrol high-crime areas between Thursdays and Sundays, Gilmore said.

In September, BPD announced a 67 percent increase in the number of robberies targeting Berkeley residents with iPhones, smartphones and other small electronic devices in the first six months of 2013 compared with the same months in 2012.

Paying attention to a phone or other electronic device, listening to music and failing to stay alert can put people at risk of becoming robbery victims, Tejada and BPD spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats said. They emphasized the importance of people being aware of their surroundings, especially when walking alone at night.

“Try not to have your phone out and visible as you’re walking,” Coats said. “If you have to check something, do it quickly and put it away so it’s not an easy target.”

Tejada added that a person’s instincts are often the best guide in navigating a potentially dangerous situation. Still, taking precautions may not always be enough to stop a crime.

“Unfortunately, you can do all these things and just have bad luck,” Tejada said. “You can just be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

UC Berkeley sophomore Misah White, who often works until 10 p.m. at Doe Library, said she regularly arranges for a friend to walk home with her at night because she feels the environment on Southside is unsafe after dark.

“Something about the area on Southside makes me nervous at night,” she said. “Not that it’s always dangerous, but there’s always a risk.”

Contact Connor Grubaugh at [email protected].