A rash of laptop, smartphone and iPad robberies in Rockridge has neighbors turning to online community groups to sound warnings and vent frustration with what some consider an inadequate OPD response.
Several incidents are reported on Rockridge Community Online, Rockridge Neighborhood Watch and Rockridge Neighborhood Watch Network, including a May 28 robbery at Zoe Café, one at nearby Hudson Bay Café in the past month and another at Bica Café on May 23. All three coffee houses are located on College Avenue.
Residents will discuss the rash of recent incidents at the monthly Greater Rockridge Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council meeting at 7 p.m. June 14 at the Rockridge Library, 5433 College Ave.
The robbery at Bica Café involved a 10-year Rockridge resident and regular Bica customer. The man, who asked that his name not be used, said he was working on his week-old Mac laptop at a window inside the café when he noticed an African-American boy outside.
“I say 'boy' because it was not a man,” he said, explaining that he judged the teen to be about 16 years old. Just then a hand, belonging to a different teenager, slipped through the partially open window and snatched his laptop, he said.
The patron described chasing two young black males down Miles Avenue into the parking lot outside of Trader Joe’s and yelling at them.
“All I wanted was my laptop back,” the theft victim said. “One of them dropped his cap; he was wearing a polo shirt and blue jeans. I wouldn’t have run after them if they were some hardened criminals, but they looked like kids.”
The two boys jumped into a burgundy-colored car and the patron jumped onto the hood. There was a young girl in the front seat - not more than 16 or 17 years old, he guessed.
“They ended up throwing me off the car; I had cuts on my hands and feet,” he said. Witnesses helped the man and called the police.
The victim conveyed his frustration with OPD’s handling of the situation in an email to a Rockridge community group: “Oakland PD finally arrived at my home a little after midnight, 13 hours after I was mugged at Bica Cafe for my laptop - both 911 and the non-emergency numbers were called at the time of the crime. NO police officer arrived at the scene of the crime. A few hours after the incident, I drove to the downtown Oakland Police headquarters to file the report myself, but police turned me away and said that an officer will show up 'soon' - midnight.”
According to the victim, when the officer arrived at his home, he said that OPD stated that it is aware of a trend in this type of crime.
Later, the same man was giving café owners fliers about the robberies when he learned the details of another incident: “I was informed by the staff and owner of Zoe Cafe (6000 College Avenue) that yesterday (Monday 28th) at noon, four young black men entered the Zoe Cafe and stole a laptop from a customer (yes, they walked into the cafe, the victim was not sitting outside, nor was by a window but inside the cafe),” he wrote in a community-group email. “The men were chased by a customers (including a private investigator). One suspect was caught, but because he didn't have the laptop, he was *released* by the police.”
Zoe Cafe management confirmed that an incident had occurred, but declined to provide details.
The man said he never utilized online community groups before his laptop was stolen.
“I’ve become an advocate after becoming a victim,” he said. “I look at College Avenue differently now and I’m suspicious of certain people now.”
But for Tanya Anderson, one of Hudson Bay Café’s owners, the heists are nothing new.
“I’ve worked in Rockridge for 15 years and the one I heard of is like the 50th [laptop robbery] I’ve heard of in Rockridge,” she said, referring to a recent incident. “It’s not something that happens all the time, but when it happens it happens to every café.”
Oakland Police Department Spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson expressed familiarity with the crimes, but did not address multiple requests for details in time for publication.