Police join forces on Berkeley-Oakland robbery series

Crime map

Three recent Berkeley robberies, two of them confirmed to involve guns, at the points indicated on the map above, are believed to be related. Several similar ones in Oakland could also be related. Image: Berkeleyside/Google Earth

Berkeley Police Department has started a joint patrol with BART Police and is collaborating with the Oakland Police Department to investigate a rash of armed robberies involving stolen cars that have been concentrated within a few blocks of each other on the North Oakland-South Berkeley border near Ashby BART station.

Berkeley Police believe three robberies that happened in Berkeley may be related, based on the similar descriptions of the suspects, the modus operandi and the location of the crimes, and they are working with OPD to determine if any of several North Oakland robberies connect to the Berkeley ones. “We are sharing information to determine any possible connections and are following leads as they develop,” said Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats.

Because of the proximity of the crimes to Ashby BART station, Berkeley Police started to partner with a BART officer focusing on crime prevention in the area, “similar to its program with UCPD regarding robbery suppression patrol,” they said.

The latest incident involved seven-month’s pregnant Jen Boynton who was robbed at gunpoint at 9:30 a.m on Monday while walking from her home to Ashby BART station. The suspect in the case is described as a “black male, late 20s, 5’8”, small-medium build, short black dreadlocks, mustache wearing a black beanie cap, blue or black hooded sweater and dark pants, armed with a gun.” (Note: this description differs from the one cited by Berkeleyside yesterday and issued by OPD in relation to robberies using the same car that authorities believed may be related. That description was: “Black male, late teens, 5’10″-6′, thin, medium complexion, black hoodie, baggy clothing; armed with gun; as well as a black male who was driving the car.)

Also on Monday morning, OPD responded to several similar robberies in the area of 66th and Raymond, the 600 block of 63rd St., and the 600 block of 66th St.

The vehicle used by the robbery suspects that day was a black 2009 Toyota Venza (license plate 6CDC832), that was stolen in a car jacking on Sunday Dec. 8, OPD said.

The suspects appear to be using carjacked vehicles, according to the Berkeley Police Department. “They will carjack a vehicle and commit some robberies and then possibly switch vehicles,” said Coats.

Three similar robberies took place last week on Wednesday Dec. 4 beginning at around 9:30 p.m. Two were in Berkeley — near the intersection of Prince and Fulton streets, and near the intersection of Wheeler and Prince streets — and a robbery with a firearm took place at 10:15 p.m near the intersection of Telegraph and 66th in Oakland.

The two Berkeley robberies are described as follows:

At approximately 9:30 p.m. a robbery occurred near the intersection of Prince Street and Fulton Street. The victim reported standing next to a vehicle talking with a friend. The suspects drove past him in a mid-size, tan, four-door sedan. The vehicle suddenly stopped and the suspects got out of the vehicle. One of the suspects was armed with a gun. The suspect demanded the victim’s wallet and cell phone. The suspect took the property, got back into the vehicle, and drove from the area. The suspects are described as: “Black Male, 20, 6’2”, 180 pounds wearing a black beanie, black jacket and dark baggy jeans.” “Black Male, 20, 6’, 170 pounds wearing a dark jacket and black beanie.”

On Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at approximately 9:30 p.m. a robbery occurred near the intersection of Wheeler Street and Prince Street. The victim reported that he was walking home.  The victim heard the sounds of someone running and turned around to see a silver vehicle. He said the suspect ran up on him. The suspects grabbed the victim and pressed and unknown object against the victim. The suspect demanded the victim’s wallet and phone. While the suspect was holding the victim a second suspect came up from behind and went through the victim’s pockets. The suspects are described as: “Black Male, 20-25 years old, 5’10”, average build wearing a beanie cap and all dark clothing.” Suspect #2:  Unknown

Residents in the area where the crimes have been focused are sharing information and their concerns through neighborhood list-serves and considering what preventative steps they can take.

“Our main focus with communication has been making sure that neighbors are aware of recent trends so they can be proactive in staying safe,” said Nancy Carleton, co-chair of the Halcyon Neighborhood Association.

Carleton said the neighborhood wants to be sure their council representatives, the city manager’s office, and Berkeley Police are aware of their concerns and are devoting adequate resources toward handling the recent upswing in armed robberies in their area. With that in mind, Carleton wrote to Berkeley councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson on Tuesday.

Marcy McGaugh, who has been active in crime prevention in the area for decades and is part of the Bateman Neighborhood Association, said there is talk of posting flyers in the neighborhood. It’s a technique that she helped coordinate with police in the 1990s when a serial rapist was at large. The suspect was caught.

“Flyers can be useful to inform people who are not part of list-serves what is going on,” she said. “They can also be a deterrent for suspects.”

McGaugh is also looking into organizing a meeting for local residents with the Berkeley Police Chief and the City Manager.

“The best prevention comes through communication and cooperation between the community and Berkeley Police Department,” she said.

Police released the following tips in relation to robberies:

  • Be alert to your surroundings and people around you.
  • Don’t talk on cell phones or listen to other devices when alone, as they significantly limit awareness.
  • Don’t have your cell phones or other electronic devices visible and out while walking.
  • Be aware of locations and situations, which make you more vulnerable to crime, such as alleys, doorways, parking lots and stairwells.
  • Call the Berkeley Police Department to report suspicious persons or activity.

Related:
Pregnant woman robbed at gunpoint in South Berkeley (12.10.13)
Berkeleyside Police Blotter: Crime in Berkeley, 11/28-12/4 (12.09.13)

Berkeleyside provides exclusive coverage of many of Berkeley’s most serious crimes. Read more here.

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  • Tremont

    This article doesn’t mention the three people that were robbed at gun point last week at 6pm a woolsey and Whitney street – only one block from where this woman was robbed. The criminals are clearly taking advantage of bart commuters travelling a street that is very dark and not very busy at certain hours. Improved lighting on woolsey would also help!!

  • guest

    “The latter is also the emergency number to call from a cell phone, as
    calling 911 from a cell phone goes to CHP in Sacramento. And, yes,
    getting robbed, or observing a possible robbery in progress, is an
    emergency.”

    This is not true according to BPD and BFD. Both have stated that 9-1-1 calls are routed to the Command Center in Berkeley through intelligence in the cell towers.

    This is just FYI. The suggestion is fine.

  • andrew johnson

    Every officer I speak to warns that 911 calls do NOT go directly to BPD. Berkeley’s Police Department, in its monthly newsletter, continues to urge cell phone users to call 510-981-5911 in the event of an emergency instead of 911. You can look it up, here’s an internet link to help: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Police/Home/BPD_Newsletter.aspx

  • Chris

    Wrong. You call 911 from a cell and you will get CHP.

  • emraguso

    I think it really varies from place to place — I know cities have done a lot to get people direct to the local agency. But to be on the safe side, it can’t hurt to program that direct 911 number into your phone and use that.

  • Peter Moore

    Oakland’s direct line is 510 777-3211. Emeryville is 510 596-3700. Albany is 510 525-7300. I’ve got them all on my cell phone