by Anneli Rufus
Responding to a recent spike in armed robberies, Berkeley police officers have made nine arrests in the last few days.
The Alameda County District Attorney has now charged one of the arrested suspects on several counts of robbery and attempted robbery.
"The arrests were a result in part by a departmental focus that included crime analysis, increased communication and the use of additional BPD personnel to concentrate patrol in several areas of the city that were identified as locations where robberies have taken place," reads an email from BPD Officer Casimiro Pierantoni.
"In late November, BPD identified a potential series of five pedestrian armed robberies that were happening north of University Avenue. One of the nine individuals arrested was caught leaving the area north of University Avenue after a robbery.
"BPD Robbery detectives are continuing followup work on these cases which includes the arrest that may be related to the series in North Berkeley. BPD does not want to compromise any of these ongoing investigations; thus BPD is not currently sharing the names or photographs of the suspects that have been arrested. ...
"Community members are always encouraged to call BPD to report suspicious cars and/or individuals and offer as much detail as possible when doing so. BPD is also reminding community members to employ some simple crime prevention measures such as walking with another in the evenings and not talking on cell phones or listening to devices such as MP3 players and iPods as they limit awareness."
The increase in armed robberies of pedestrians in North Berkeley began as summer ended. Most of the robberies occurred in the evening hours, but according to Pierantoni:
"On Thursday, November 18 , we had another armed robbery. ... Unlike the other robberies, this incident took place at 11:30 a.m. A pedestrian walking in the area of M.L.K. Jr. Way and Hearst Avenue was robbed via gun by a suspect described as a black male adult in his 20’s, 5’6” to 5’7” tall, with a thin build wearing a black t-shirt and baggy jeans.
Around the middle of October, "we had six robberies over a 10-day period. The robbery activity stopped on No. 21, but we did have a new robbery occur on December 2, on the 1600 block of Lincoln Street, just east of California Street. At 7:00 p.m., a community member was sitting in his parked car (he had just walked to his car from the North Berkeley BART Station) when a suspect approached his car from behind. The suspect opened the community member’s unlocked driver door and pointed a gun at him, demanding his belongings. The suspect fled the scene on foot eastbound on Lincoln Street, and may have left the area in an unknown description car. The suspect was described as a black male adult, 20-25 yrs old, 5’7” tall, 130 lbs, with short hair and a light to medium complexion. He was wearing a dark grey or black hooded sweatshirt with a distinctive skull and crossbones design on the upper left chest.
"As I mentioned in previous community alerts, our Department takes robberies very seriously, even more so when they are concentrated in a particular area. Our patrol officers are aware of the robberies and have the suspect descriptions, and our robbery detectives are actively investigating all leads. Our area commanders are also focusing additional personnel and resources in the impacted areas."
The victims were of all types, Pierantoni explained.
"There was no commonality to the victims. The victims comprised a variety of ages and genders, and were not limited to individuals walking alone. Two of the robberies involved multiple victims. This shows us that neglecting to maintain situational awareness simply because you are walking with a friend or group may not be a good idea."
Even though nine suspects were arrested recently, the world's supply of criminals will never run out. So continue to keep your eyes open.