Police in Berkeley are investigating five robberies at gunpoint that took place in less than two hours Friday, according to authorities and crime data reviewed this week by Berkeleyside.
Berkeley generally averages about a robbery a day, but November has seen an uptick, with closer to two robberies a day so far this month. Last Friday’s sequence was also somewhat unusual in that the majority of Berkeley’s robberies generally don’t involve a firearm. Last year, only a quarter of the city’s robberies involved guns.
Detectives are looking into whether the robberies were a series that may have been committed by the same suspects or group, said Berkeley Police Sgt. Veronica Rodrigues on Thursday. She reminded community members to “be mindful of their surroundings, be cautious and not be distracted with your phone.”
All five robberies Friday evening involved armed suspects. They took place all over the city. In all but one, the victims were pedestrians. In the other, a man was sitting in his car when he was robbed. None of the victims were injured. Police have made arrests in just one of the cases so far.
The first robbery took place at 6:15 p.m. Friday near Delaware and Chestnut streets. The next four took place over a 20-minute period: at about 7:30 p.m. in the 1800 block of Carleton Street (at Grant Street); at 7:40 p.m. at Spruce and Virginia Street; at about 7:45 p.m. at Bancroft Way and Bowditch Street; and at 7:50 p.m. at Addison Street and Jefferson Avenue.
Two suspects were seen in each of the incidents except for the one at Bancroft and Telegraph. Police arrested three people in that case: two juveniles and a 20-year-old man named Roman Randle. He is not in custody and does not appear to have been charged, according to Alameda County court records online.
It was the robbery at Carleton Street that involved a man sitting in his car.
Rodrigues said it’s possible Black Friday, and an influx of shoppers, might also have drawn robbers into Berkeley that evening. But she noted, too, that the robberies were not necessarily concentrated in a particular area or near the city’s shopping districts.
Rodrigues said electronic devices and cash continue to be the most popular targets for robbers — because they are easier to grab and, in the case of devices, the easiest items to sell later. And most people no longer carry cash, she added.
With the investigations ongoing, Rodrigues said it’s too soon to say whether a particular group was responsible for all five cases Friday.
It does sometimes happen, she said, that a crew will focus on a certain area because it knows the best escape routes or may have had luck there in the past. Other times, robbers focus on finding someone alone in an area that’s poorly lit, resulting in more of a crime of opportunity.
Police have said previously that there tends to be an increase in robberies and thefts at this time of year because it gets dark earlier and more people are visiting from out of town.
Note: The map originally showed the wrong location for the robbery on Carleton. It has been corrected.