Crime is up in Contra Costa County

October 28, 2008 7:28:36 PM PDT
Crime tends to rise when the economy is bad, and that's clearly what's happening in the East Bay. Armed robberies are up dramatically.

Last year Contra Costa County dealt with 46 robberies in the unincorporated areas from June through October. That's compared to 55 during the same time period this year, which is an increase of 17 percent.

In Walnut Creek there were two fast food restaurants robbed at gun point Monday night within about 30 minutes of each other. Police think the two robberies are related and are just the latest examples of an alarming trend hitting Contra Costa County.

Whether it's a sign of the economic times, or a string of random acts, crime scenes are becoming increasingly common in central Contra Costa County. The robbery of a Citibank is just one of five bank robberies in Concord since October 1st, in a city that normally sees three or less, per month.

"I don't have a theory about why we're seeing this. Just about every crime, no matter whether it's a financial crime, a crime of opportunity, a violent crime, you're going to see spikes. Things come and go and we never really know why," said Lt. Andrew Gartner, from the Concord Police Department.

Concord normally averages about 16 robberies per month. In August there were 26 and in September there were 29.

"We're probably consistent with everyone else in the area," said Lt. Tim Schultz, from the Walnut Creek Police Department.

The normally low-crime city of Walnut Creek has also seen a jump in robberies. From January to October 2007, Walnut Creek had 30. This year, there have been 43.

The targets include high-profile commercial businesses, including a Safeway store near Broadway Plaza, and a U.S.A. gas station near BART. A Washington Mutual Bank robbery created additional commotion when police thought a potential suspect ran into the campus of Las Lomas High School.

"The Washington Mutual and the Bank of America, those were related. And the FBI notified us yesterday that they had taken a suspect in custody in those robberies, as well as a string of others," said Lt. Schultz.

The spike in robberies also includes what police call "street crimes." Monday night, a robber apparently followed a woman walking from the Pleasant Hill BART station, pulled out a gun and demanded her purse. When she resisted, the man grabbed the purse and ran. The woman's husband chased the suspect, until the robber pulled a gun on him.

"What we say is don't resist, don't be a hero. Try to be a good eye witness. Try to get some details that law enforcement can use," said Jimmy Lee, from the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department.

Those details that witnesses should gather include suspect and car descriptions. After checking with major cities in the Bay Area, ABC7 found robberies are actually down or steady in Oakland and San Jose, and in San Francisco there is a slight increase, but it's less than 10 percent. Nothing like what's happening out in Contra Costa County.


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