In light of the recent string of laptop thefts in Berkeley, we at The Daily Californian thought we’d compile a list of the recent incidents. Among the instances are a few recurring themes: laptop thefts taking place in local cafes, with the suspects frequently escaping the scene in a getaway car.
Here are a few of the recent laptop thefts in chronological order from the first instance in recent memory:
Jan. 20 — Durant Avenue
The robbery occurred at 2728 Durant Ave. The suspect allegedly took a laptop computer and fled eastbound on Durant.
UCPD and Berkeley Police Department circulated the area but could not find the suspect, and the suspect’s affiliation with the victim was unknown.
The suspect was described in the alert as a Black male in his 30s, wearing black pants and a gray hooded sweatshirt with the logo “Sean John,” carrying a black handgun.
Jan. 29 — Starbucks and 85C Bakery Cafe
A group of five teenagers was arrested in connection to two laptop thefts at two coffee shops in Downtown Berkeley.
The first theft occurred just after 10 p.m. at the Starbucks on Oxford and Center streets. The group allegedly fled in a waiting vehicle and stole another laptop minutes later at 85C Bakery Cafe at 21 Shattuck Square, according to BPD spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel.
The five teenagers were stopped by patrol officers on the 2200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, where they were taken into custody.
Feb. 1 — College Avenue
BPD alerted the community of a “snatch and grab” that occurred on the 2300 block of College Avenue.
Three of the suspects approached the victims and took four laptops before escaping southbound on College Avenue in an old-model four-door sedan. No one was injured during the thefts.
There were four suspects in total, two of whom were described as Black male adults in their early 20s, 6 feet tall with thin builds and wearing dark clothing. The third suspect was described as a Black male, and the fourth suspect, the getaway driver, was not described.
Feb. 3 — Cafe Blue Door
Two laptops were stolen from customers at the popular coffee shop Cafe Blue Door just south of campus.
Two men entered the cafe and stole laptops from two different patrons before running down Bancroft Avenue toward Downtown Berkeley, according to BPD Lt. Joe Okies.
The suspects stole two laptops, one from a female sitting at an adjacent table and one from a patron sitting outside.
The two men were described as Black males between the ages of 14 and 20, about 6 feet in height, Okies said. Both suspects were described as having thin builds and wearing gray sweatshirts. One suspect was wearing track pants and the other was wearing jeans, according to Okies.
Feb. 12 — Sack’s Coffee House
A laptop was stolen from a customer at Sack’s Coffee House, located on College Avenue and Derby Street.
Two young men entered the cafe and stole the laptop from a table before running down Derby Street while another patron chased them. The two men got into a car that pulled up and drove them toward Telegraph Avenue.
Berkeley police arrived shortly after.
There were 16 laptop thefts reported in January — more than the number of reported laptop thefts in November and December combined, according to BPD spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel.
Victims of laptop theft often “leave (their) laptop unattended, get up to get coffee or something, and someone comes by and grabs it,” Frankel said.
According to Frankel, robberies are more violent and forceful than thefts but are not always successful.
Robbery includes the “use of force or fear,” while theft is typically nonviolent, Frankel said. He added that laptop theft might occur if a laptop is left unattended.
Most of the laptop thefts and robberies have occurred at cafes near the UC Berkeley campus, including Caffe Strada, Cafe Blue Door, Starbucks and 85C Bakery Cafe.
BPD has taken specific measures in response to the string of thefts to keep the community safe, namely through outreach to promote awareness about the threat of theft.
Students may need to take extra measures to safeguard their belongings, Frankel said. He suggested that students back up digital work and install tracking software on their laptops and that they use laptop locks and take a picture of the serial number on their laptops when they are working in a public setting.
Constant awareness is necessary to prevent laptop theft, according to Frankel. In most instances, suspects scan their surroundings to look for people who are “not paying attention,” Frankel said.
“(It is) not uncommon to hear, ‘I only turned my back for a minute,’ ” Frankel said.