Women targeted in gold jewelry thefts

August 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The high price of gold is catching the attention of thieves. It's at a new record high $1,836 per ounce. And at that price, police say criminals are ripping it off the necks of women.

The robbers have been yanking gold necklaces off of women's necks in Oakland for the past three months. Now, the crimes are escalating. There are now dozens of victims and police say the robbers are young, brazen and fast.

Mayra Morales says she's going to leave all the gold she typically wears behind the next time she comes into BART's Fruitvale station.

"It's scary, I would never come over here. We're from Berkeley only that I'm registering for school and this is the way I'm going to get to school," said Morales.

Morales has learned that men in their early 20s are targeting mostly women who are wearing gold jewelry here in the Fruitvale District and in the Lake Merritt area.

"They walk up to them on foot. Most of the females are distracted, usually by cellphones or electronic devices. They snatch the gold chains directly off their necks then they run away," said Oakland Sgt. Holly Joshi.

Joshi says dozens of these robberies have taken place over the last three months. She says the price of gold being more than $1,800 an ounce has a lot to do with the thefts that are taking place during daylight hours, especially around commute times between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. The robberies are also on the rise.

"It's the first time in like a year that I wear some," said Oakland resident Christina MacAuley.

Women who like to wear their jewelry are frightened.

"I'll take it off when I get home and leave it there," said MacAuley.

Although police have tried to get the word out, many women had no idea these robberies were occuring.

"I probably won't wear my jewelry knowing that. Just leave all the jewelries at home," said Alameda resident Jamie Paek.

Oakland police have some advice for women who use public transportation, particularly in the Fruitvale area.

Joshi says none of the victims has been hurt so far.

"We do know that criminals often times become more comfortable, become more brazen, and become more violent," said Joshi.

Oakland police say the descriptions of the robbers are so general as to not be very useful. They're young, in their teens and early 20s, African American and Latino. Police also don't know where the men are selling the jewelry they're stealing so they've alerted pawn shops and any other gold buyers in the area.

Gold jewelry theft prevention tips:

  1. Always be aware of your surroundings and don't become distracted by electronic devices including cell phones.
  2. Stay in well lit and populated areas when traveling alone.
  3. Be especially alert when coming and going from your vehicle.
  4. If you chose to wear gold jewelry, wear it under your clothing until you reach your destination
  5. If someone or something looks suspicious please call the police.
  6. Program your cell phone with the OPD emergency number: 510-777-3211.

Police and Crime Stoppers are offering up to $5,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest of the robbers. Anyone with information can call police at 510-238-3426 or Crime Stoppers at 510-777-8572.

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