by Anneli Rufus
Berkeley detectives did some clever work to catch a thief recently.
BPD Officer Casimiro Pierantoni details it thusly:
"On May 5, at about 6:00 p.m., [a Berkeley resident] parked his car near the corner of Hearst Avenue and Euclid Avenue. Unknowingly, he left his laptop on the back seat of his car. Sometime before 8:00 p.m., someone smashed the car window and stole the laptop. ...
"This is where the story gets really interesting. The victim had a backup program installed on his computer that automatically uploaded new data from the computer's hard drive to an online virtual storage location. The suspect, not knowing of the backup program, proceeded to take photographs of himself with the computer's built-in camera; those photographs were eventually uploaded to the internet based storage location. The victim discovered the photographs of the suspect and passed them along to Detective Sergeant Ed Spiller and Detective Earl Emelson. The detectives recognized the suspect as Gerardo Vega of Berkeley. Vega had a long history of auto burglary and theft, and the detectives knew he had just been released from jail at the start of the year.
"The detectives closely examined the photographs and noticed that Vega appeared to be sitting in a motel room when he snapped the pictures with the computer's camera. Sgt. Spiller, theorizing that the victim's computer had accessed the internet thorough the motel's wireless Internet system, began work to identify the IP address utilized by the victim's computer in hopes that it would lead them to the motel where Vega was staying. Not content to wait for the IP address information to become available, Sgt. Spiller and Det. Emelson began checking local Berkeley motels for signs of Vega. After checking the Berkeley motels and not locating Vega, the detectives decided to expand their search to Oakland motels. While checking motels on MacArthur Boulevard, Det. Emelson spotted Vega getting into a car in a motel parking lot. The detectives stopped Vega and arrested him for possession of the stolen laptop. During the investigation, the detectives located additional stolen property from other auto burglaries inside Vega's car and in his motel room. Vega's girlfriend, Maria Reynoso of Berkeley, was also arrested during the investigation at the motel.
"The detectives are certain that Vega was involved in numerous auto burglaries around Berkeley."