Berkeley police say 6 arrested in undercover sting to combat laptop thefts

Byby Melanie Woodrow KGO logo
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Berkeley police say 6 arrested in undercover sting to combat laptop thefts
Police say Berkeley officers arrested six people in an undercover operation set up to combat a recent rash of laptop thefts in cafes.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Berkeley Police Department says it ran a successful undercover weekend sting following a surge in laptop thefts.

Madalyn Miles was one of dozens of students working on her laptop outside Café Strada in Berkeley Monday. She says she's left her laptop on more than one occasion to get a drink or food.

"It's like very much campus culture to just say will you watch my laptop and go get your stuff," said Miles.

Berkeley Police say there have been 26 laptop thefts over the last two months, prompting officers to take action.

"We made it a priority," said Sgt. Andrew Frankel with the Berkeley Police Department.

RELATED: East Bay coffee shops see spike in laptop thefts

It's not just people leaving their laptops unattended.

"It's a quick crime of opportunity," said Sgt. Frankel. It was one that didn't go unnoticed this weekend.

Just before 8 p.m. Saturday officers working in an undercover capacity here at Café Strada witnessed a group of suspects steal two laptops and run to a waiting getaway car.

"One of the two victims chased after the suspects and was dragged a short distance," said Sgt. Frankel.

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After making sure the victim was okay, officers stopped the getaway vehicle on College Avenue near Russell Street and arrested six people; three adults and three juveniles. Five of the six were on probation for similar crimes. Police say they also seized additional stolen property from other crimes.

"That's good that they're taking it seriously and that they're showing up," said student Nick Shafer.

Berkeley Police say be aware of your surroundings and back everything up.

"It doesn't work perfectly but it's better than nothing," said Professor Peter Duesberg.

Berkeley Police also say consider placing tracking software on your devices.

The department's undercover efforts will continue until there is a decrease in laptop thefts.