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Rash of Laptop Thefts Plaguing Berkeley Cafes Despite Recent Arrests

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- A recent rash of laptop thefts at Berkeley cafes is continuing despite the recent arrest of six people in an undercover operation, police said Thursday.

In the most recent case, a laptop was stolen from a cafe in the 2800 block of Telegraph Avenue at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to police.

Three male suspects entered the cafe and grabbed the laptop from the hands of a woman who was sitting on a couch near the front of the business, police said.

The suspects then fled to a getaway car that was waiting nearby in the 2400 block of Stuart Street, according to authorities.

Berkeley police said anyone with information about the theft should call them at (510) 981-5742.

In an undercover operation at about 8 p.m. last Saturday, police arrested six suspects, three adults and three juveniles, who allegedly stole laptops from patrons at Caffe Strada at 2300 College Ave.

The laptops were swiftly recovered, police said.

On Wednesday, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office charged Dajon Daniel, 19, of Oakland, Kingikirah Stevenson, 23, of Oakland, and Ray Moore, 19, of Antioch, with robbery, according to Berkeley police.

The juveniles, two of which are 16 and the third 17, all from Oakland, remain in custody at Alameda County Juvenile Hall in San Leandro and face charges including robbery, grand theft and probation violations, police said.

Laptop thefts have become a common occurrence in Berkeley and police are advising residents to keep an eye on their belongings and their surroundings.

Police also said people should consider using a locking device to secure their laptops to the table, backing up their work to either an external hard drive that's not kept with the computer or to the cloud, buying tracking software so that they can be reunited with their devices if they're stolen, and making note of their device's serial number.

Berkeley police said they're sharing videos from a robbery that occurred on Aug. 25.

Detective Sgt. Frank Landrum says the video shows an example of how fast such laptop grab-and-run thefts happen. He says several small groups of robbers have been active in Berkeley.

"We've noticed this to be an increasing phenonenom compared to prior years," Sgt. Landrum said.

"If you were to sit at a table with a pile of cash in a clear plastic bag you would probably be more cognizant of who's around you," Sgt. Landrum continued. "And it's not just a pile of cash, it's someone's college papers, their dissertation, their family photos -- everything they've got of their life is in that computer," he added.

Police report a total of 57 laptop thefts and robberies in Berkeley all of last year. So far this year, there have been 21 -- 16 in January and five in February.

Four of those thefts happened at Caffe Strada, across the street from the University of California. One student, Kay Coelho, told KPIX 5's Joe Vazquez she's trying to be more careful.

"I make sure that I'm looking around and making sure I'm safe," Coelho said.

© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report

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