Berkeley police went undercover Saturday night to try to stop the series of laptop thefts that have plagued local coffee shops. They ended up arresting six men suspected of stealing computers from Caffe Strada on Bancroft Way.
A number of plainclothes officers were stationed at Caffe Strada around 7:45 p.m. when a black sedan with six people in it pulled to the curb on Bancroft, according to Lt. Joe Okies, a spokesman for the Berkeley Police Department. The officers observed four of the men get out of the car and enter the café. Two of the suspects grabbed two laptops and ran back to the car, according to Okies. One of the people whose laptop was stolen chased after the suspected thief. The car took off, briefly dragging the victim, who was not injured, according to police.
Other Berkeley police officers responded and stopped a black sedan on College Avenue near Russell Street in “a high-risk car stop,” according to police. Police found the two stolen laptops in the car and arrested the car’s six occupants. The suspects were booked on suspicion of strong-armed robbery, grand theft and possession of stolen property, said Okies. A few were also charged with a probation violation.
Police declined to release the names of those arrested while they investigate whether they were involved with any of the other laptop thefts from cafés. In recent months, 24 laptops have been stolen from local coffee shops. Police officers were stationed at Caffe Strada and other coffee shops on Saturday as part of an undercover operation to try to snag those involved, said Okies.
Caffe Strada, at 2300 College Ave., has been struck now four times. In early February, thieves stole five laptops in two separate robberies. Another theft occurred in January.
Sack’s Coffee House, at 2701 College Ave. just north of Derby Street, was also struck in early February, not long after the thieves stole laptops at Strada.