BERKELEY (KPIX) – Laptop thieves have been hitting Bay Area cafes over and over again, but surveillance video helped catch one suspect.
The video of a robbery last Tuesday shows a man slowly ambling into Cafe Strada on the edge of the UC Berkeley campus. He puts his arms in the air, as if to say he’s innocent. Then he snatches a laptop and hustles out to a waiting getaway car.
“He steals it quickly and runs away,” says Byron White of the Berkeley Police Department.
White says his snatch-and-grab method is not unique.
“It’s not uncommon. In fact, we’ve had 36 this year,” says White.
Police arrested 20-year old Kenneth Anthony Hendon with suspicion of robbery thanks to eyewitness descriptions. But White says there may be several other bands of bandits, all working independently of each other.
Last May, at this same Café Strada, someone shot cellphone video of yet another laptop theft. This time, the customers tackled the thief, but the getaway driver came out of nowhere and started throwing punches, freeing his partner-in-crime.
Another incident last August shows two men working together at Peet’s Coffee on Shattuck. They simultaneously steal two laptops and run out the door.
People get engrossed in their laptop and they just forget about the real world.
“We’re all guilty of it from time to time,” says White. “But if you can, force yourself to look up every couple of minutes just to be aware and alert.”
When college students are the victims, a lot is at stake.
“We’re working on dissertations,” says Ashley Rediker, a student at UC Berkeley. “So we would panic.”
“I don’t know what I would do,” adds Akanksha Kalia. “I don’t know if I would graduate next year.”
Police offer one more tip: Try to sit deep inside the cafe at a table that doesn’t provide a clear path of escape.
Police say they have been conducting undercover sting operations, with a modicum of success.
Meantime, Cafe Strada says they have installed more surveillance cameras.