Stop thief! Councilmember turns cop, solves crime

Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf says she is considering a second career as a Berkeley police officer — maybe. Photo: Mark Berger

On a recent Friday evening, City Councilmember Susan Wengraf put on a heavy bulletproof jacket and went on a ride-along with a Berkeley Police patrol officer. By the end of a thoroughly exciting night, Wengraf was talking enthusiastically about a second career in law enforcement — she had also been instrumental in solving a crime.

The ride-along  — which was a first for Wengraf who looks after District 6 in the Berkeley hills — started out routinely with the police officer responding to calls coming in over the dispatch radio. “There was a traffic accident with a woman who was 7-months pregnant,” recalled Wengraf. “A call about a 5-year old child who was missing, and an alarm going off at a home on Indian Rock.”

After a couple of hours roaming the city streets, there was word of a house robbery on Buena Vista Way, right in the heart of Wengraf’s district. The suspect had fled the scene, but there was a description, as a neighbor had seen him.

The patrol officer responded and headed towards the crime scene. It was Berkeley High graduation day, however, and the traffic around the Greek Theater was snarled up. As the police car made its slow way along Hearst Avenue, Wengraf was looking out the window when she saw a man who fit the description issued by the dispatcher — right down to the fact that he was on a skateboard. “There he is,” she shouted to the police officer.

The suspect was heading onto the UC Berkeley campus, so the officer called in to the UCPD dispatcher to alert them and continued heading to Buena Vista. Once there, the officer spoke to a community member who had seen the burglar in his neighbor’s home. He and his wife were driven down to the Cal campus where the suspect had been apprehended. They identified him and the suspect was detained.

“It was so exciting,” said Wengraf a few days later, adding that it all came together because of an alert neighbor and an efficient police response. “The neighbor had heard a noise in the backyard of his neighbor and it didn’t sound right,” she says. “The two jurisdictions were cooperative and got on the case right away. And the whole thing was solved within half an hour.”

She concedes that the fact that the patrol officer had an extra pair of eyes played a part.

“I helped catch a criminal. It was so much more satisfying than a City Council meeting,” she concludes.

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  • Completely_Serious

    I wonder how many other council members and mayors have done a ride along?  Maybe that should be a requirement within, oh, a week or two of being elected?

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    Awesome job! Next Master Bates? No he would never do it!

  • Alina

    the cops need all the help they can get.
    a massage parlor and a smoke shop robbed on the same night… darn

  • AnthonySanchez

    Berkeley Hills Cop! (cue: cheesy synthesizer music)

  • Tabitha

    Susan Wengraf should run Berkeley! She is whip smart and I’m grateful to have her on the council.

  • Matthew Kelleher

    Susan is a Berkeley jewel; how many other “poiticians ” would get right in there on the ground floor to experience what our officers have to deal with.  This is a member of the council that doesn’t shoot from the hip or give orders from on high; it is such an obvious but unanticipated thing for an elected official to do.  Bravo Susan !

  • Guest

    Run, Susan, run! (For mayor.)

  • hardlyaguest

    Wengraf is savvy, she’s paid her dues (as Betty Olds longtime assistant) and she’s less in debt to the local mobs than any other council member. 

    If the taxpaying public wants a candidate with their interests at heart, she’s their best chance.

  • Back in the 1980s Berkeley City Councilman Leo Bach caught a rapist on a police ride-along, when he recognized that a man who had been detained on some minor infraction fit the description of the rape suspect.