East Bay coffee shops see spike in laptop thefts

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- Several East Bay cities have seen a spike in laptop thefts recently. This is a cautionary tale for those who use their laptops in coffee shops or other public places.

"All I saw was kind of a hand and my laptop was just swiped away," recalled Sarah Mahler.

Alameda's South Shore Center Starbucks was the last place Mahler expected to lose her laptop.

"Honestly, I was just shocked. I was speechless," said Mahler.

Tuesday evening a pair of thieves targeted her and an elderly woman. Starbucks customer Benjamin Mesanovic ran outside after hearing the commotion.

"But the guy was already gone and then I saw the older lady, the purse was stolen from her," said Mesanovic.

There are surveillance cameras all over the shopping center including two perched above Starbucks, but neither the coffee shop nor Alameda Police have said whether or not the laptop thieves were caught on camera.

"I don't know what that guy was thinking and I hope -- I hope they catch him," said Mesanovic.

Mahler filed a report with police. She learned of other thefts and wants people to be cautious.

"I will definitely be smarter about where I sit cause I was sitting at the table right by the door," said Mahler.

San Leandro Police recovered a stolen laptop after an observant witness jotted down the license number of the get-away vehicle. They traced the vehicle to Oakland and arrested a 16-year-old who had the laptop in his backpack.

Thefts tend to spike ahead of the holidays.

Novato police released a few tips to prevent theft:

Always walk and park in well-lit areas.

Do not leave purchases in plain sight in your vehicle.

Keep minimal cash on hand: use debit or credit cards that can be frozen if stolen.
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