Kayak theft puts Berkeley youth program in jeopardy

Students from Berkeley's Longfellow Middle School learn to kayak at a Berkeley Boosters camp. Photo: Berkeley Boosters

The theft of twelve ocean kayaks from a storage trailer in Aquatic Park has put a summer  program for Berkeley youth in jeopardy.

The kayaks, which are owned by the California Police Activities League (CalPAL), were located in a parking lot owned by the City of Berkeley but leased to the Berkeley Water Ski Club.

The crime was discovered on April 13 when Oakland Police notified CalPAL that life jackets with the CalPAL insignia had been found in an Oakland dumpster. Staff from Berkeley Boosters, which runs youth water sports camps throughout the year for Berkeley youth, went to Aquatic Park and found the trailer and kayaks missing.

Cheryl La Rosa Longo, Executive Director of Berkeley Boosters, said the theft appeared to be planned rather than opportunistic. “The kayaks are stored in a remote and inaccessible part of the park. You need to open a gate and pass by a sign that reads ‘Private Property’ to get there,” she said. “The kayaks are locked but it looks like someone hitched their car to the trailer and drove away.”

The theft occurred between April 6, when the kayaks were last seen in Aquatic Park, and April 13 when the stolen life jackets were found.

Berkeley Boosters organizes a spring program, which recently ended, as well as three summer camps and a fall after-school program for Berkeley middle schoolers.

“Our most urgent concern if for the disappointment of our youth who are in the process of signing up for our summer programs now. Kayaks are a highlight of the water sports camps,” La Rosa Longo said.

The Berkeley Boosters has been storing the kayaks in this same lot for the past four years without incident. CalPAL insurance will not cover the loss and Berkeley Boosters are responsible for replacing the trailer and dozen kayaks.

La Rosa Longo said the Berkeley Police is investigating the theft, but that there have been no leads yet. The Boosters are checking online to see whether the kayaks are put up for sale. “They are used, however. I don’t know what their value would be,” she said.

“This loss is obviously a major blow for the Booster kids. The financial impact of replacing the stolen equipment could bankrupt the program which is already cash-strapped due to reductions in City of Berkeley funding,” John Abrate, Assistant VP at Union Bank (Berkeley) and President of the Berkeley Boosters Board, said in a statement.

The Berkeley Boosters PAL serves middle and high school youth primarily from South and West Berkeley. More than 50% of Berkeley Booster youth are from families at, or below, the poverty line.

Community members wishing to support the threatened programs may get in touch with Cheryl La Rosa Longo by calling 510-375 5024 or emailing her at

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  • Chris

    The police beats in west berkeley are a mess.

    Beat 16 oversees the highest crime areas of west berkeley AND the marina – brilliant…

    Beat 15 is responsible for the area of aquatic park where the theft occurred, but I imagine it would take quite a bit of time for the officer to get to this location – having to nearly cross over into emeryville to access the south side of aquatic park.

  • TN

    This crime seems similar to the theft a few years ago when somebody broke in and stole all the specialized bicycles for the disabled from BORP’s storage space in Aquatic Park. In both cases, children with needs were the ultimate victims.

    Aquatic Park is a very different place at night compared to the day time hours. And the south end of the park has a very different vibe than the northern end.

  • Paul Kamen

    The Berkeley Racing Canoe Center, which operates two dragon boats and a few kayaks from M-Dock in the Berkeley Marina, also had some kayaks stolen earlier this year. But our main activity is dragon boat paddling, so our program is still in full operation. BRCC might be in a position to pick up some of the water-borne activity that the kayaks would have provided to the PAL kids — we can handle groups of 40 – email me at if you would like to discuss setting something up.

  • Anonymous

    That’s such a scumbag thing to do.  Well, it was extremely generous of John Abrate, Assistant VP at Union Bank, to offer to replace the equipment and provide for a more secure storage facility in appreciation for the $3.9 million high-risk, low-interest loan that taxpayers gave his bank via the TARP bailouts.

  • berkeley mom

    I dont understand how they would not have insurance to cover such a loss. It makes no sense.

  • Guest