News & Opinion » Apprehension

A View to a Kill

A quartet of armed robbers cruises Berkeley in a Honda, Oakland schools are burgled, and a slasher stalks the hills.

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Jagged gashes, half an inch deep: Whoever wielded that serrated blade wanted to kill. It was a handsaw; the victims were trees in Berkeley's Glendale La Loma Park. Logic would say the perp was a hillside homeowner whose view the trees obscured. On April 29, a parks and recreation worker told police that he'd found a pine and two oaks freshly slashed near their bases, according to Berkeley Police Sergeant Mary Kusmiss. Photocopied fliers posted nearby proclaimed: "In the beginning Glendale La Loma Park was an outcroping [sic] of rock. People could see to the South Bay, the Pacific and North Bay. Workers crushed the rock, sold it to people, built Berkeley and made a quarry with creek water running through it." (True, true, true.) "People created government, acquired the quarry, constructed roads to it, damed [sic] the creeks and made a lake. The lake drowned people. Government filled the quarry, constructed a park and planted shrubs and trees. The trees destroyed the view. ... Cut the trees to preserve the view of Berkeley and the bay from Oakland to Richmond as it was in the beginning." Then a sinister sign-off: "PEOPLE PREVAIL."

Kusmiss says this was not the park's first attack: When five Chinese pistaches near the play area were slashed near their bases in 2001, also with a handsaw, a park worker said the cutter clearly wanted the wind to topple them.

Apprehension viewed the latest gashes, finding them savage indeed. Printed on parks and recreation stationery, a notice taped to one tormented trunk reads: "Attention: Tree Cutter. It is not difficult to determine who cut this tree. This reckless and malicious act is illegal and will not be overlooked. You are endangering all of the users of Glendale La Loma Park. The City of Berkeley does have a view clause and there are proper channels that can be followed to resolve a view issue. An independent arborist surveyed the tree and believes that there is a small chance that the tree may survive. Do not make another attempt to destroy this tree." Consider yourself warned.

Steal My Sunshine

This is what happens when you leave town during a heat wave: Unidentified trespassers swam in a Piedmonter's backyard pool while the homeowner was away for a week, according to an April 20 report: "Glasses, towels, and other items [were] left in the area." Slobs.

What About the Children?

Burglars smashed windows and pounded locks with a hammer to raid Oakland's Redwood Heights Elementary School around 10:30 p.m. on April 27, one of six local school break-ins that weekend, according to Principal Ann Kruze, who wrote to parents the next morning: "The only thing that we know was taken was a DVD player. ... We are very thankful that the Walkathon money was picked up late Friday afternoon." Burglars also attempted to break into Berkeley's Longfellow Elementary that same weekend, according to police reports.

Wastin' Away Again

Registered as grand theft in the April 24 Brentwood police log: A woman "did not return a margarita machine she rented." Put down that salt shaker, biotch.

You're Entitled to Your Opinion

But vandalism's a crime, and you're a jerk. Someone scrawled "WHITE POWER" on a truck in Martinez on April 28 (using a black marker, ironically). Estimated damage: $500, according to the police report. Someone scrawled "NO WAR" across two doors of a Chevy Malibu in Walnut Creek on April 22, also in black ink. The car "was a US gov't vehicle," according to the police report.

Gang of Four

Five armed robberies around midnight in Berkeley within four days were perpetrated by what appears to be the same gang of four to five gunmen traveling in a silver car. The stickups occurred in the city's downtown and residential north and south: April 24 on the 2000 block of Durant Avenue, April 25 on the 1800 block of Delaware Street and the 3100 block of Shattuck Avenue, April 26 on the 2100 block of Walnut Street, and April 27 on the 1700 block of Chestnut Street. The suspects in the BPD and UCPD reports are described as African-Americans aged eighteen to 25, wielding two semiautomatic handguns, driving a newish four-door Honda or other coupe.

More Hot-Weather Advice

Nearly half of Berkeley's residential burglaries are committed through windows and doors left open or unlocked: all the likelier as temperatures rise, Kusmiss says. A man watching TV in his living room on the 2200 block of Jefferson Street around 1 a.m. on April 27, she says, heard the knob turn on his unlocked front door. In walked a stranger: a tall thirtysomething African American, face mostly hidden in a dark hoodie, intoning, "Give me all your fucking money." The victim later told police that he and the intruder "looked at each other ... and I backed up." The suspect seized him. "I ripped my arm away" and tried to run, but was grabbed again and forced back into the living room. When the victim screamed for help, the suspect fled. Shut that latch.

Who is That Masked Man?

With an April 29 armed takeover robbery at Subway Sandwiches on University Avenue, Berkeley's Ski-Mask Bandit has apparently expanded his territory. A series of April heists along San Pablo Avenue targeted businesses including Good Vibrations, Ecohome Improvement, and the Famous Foam Factory. The gunman in all cases is described in BPD reports as a tall, slim African-American male wearing a black ski mask. Apprehension talked with one of the Famous Foam victims, who described being marched to the rear of the store at gunpoint and ordered to lie prone.

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