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KRON4 Spotlights recent spate of Cafe Laptop Robberies in Emeryville

2 mins read

Our August 2017 Crime report noted a peculiar trend, the snatching robbery of laptops at Starbucks and other cafes in our city. KRON4 reporter Stanley Roberts apparently took note of this trend and spotlighted it in his latest People Behaving Badly report.

The segment including surveillance video of a robbery at the Powell Street Plaza Starbucks location on Christie Avenue. The video shows a male with a hoodie over his head lingering at the front of the store before lurching at a customers laptop and dashing off with the victim in pursuit.

The Christie location alone has been a target of this type of robbery at least seven times this year and the city has seen at least 14 incidents at 4 different cafe locations. The piece also spotlights similar incidents at Starbucks in Alameda and Alamo.

“Obviously this is a phenomenon that has been going on in the Bay Area” noted Emeryville PD Captain Oliver Collins. Collins recommended patrons be more aware of their situation including sitting in the rear of the store and use of cable locks when using their devices.

The piece noted that Starbucks is not the only victim of this trend as Black Diamond Cafe was also a recent victim. Black Diamond owner Dave Ung described the recent incident he witnessed in the segment. “Five gentlemen with hoodies at about 2:30 in the day,” Ung recounted. “Then I heard a customer scream ‘Noooo!’ ” noting the thieves ran off with two laptops.

The EPD created this flyer post in coffee shops around town alerting patrons of these crimes.

Proposition 47, passed as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” was written with the intention of providing second chances to those convicted of crimes. Prop 47 is often cited by law enforcement agencies as the reason for the resurgence of these and other property crimes including our surge in auto burglaries (Auto burglaries are in fact up 60% in Emeryville from 2016). This law effectively reduced the penalty of these crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor enabling repeat offenses with little threat of incarceration or incentive to enter drug rehabilitation programs.

Councilmember John Bauters, who works as a lobbyist for the organization that authored Prop 47, proposed at the September 5th council meeting that our city oppose reforms to the law which is supported by the League of Cities. Measure AB 1326, authored by Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) cited the “unintended consequence of incentivizing career criminals to take advantage of criminal justice reforms meant to prevent low-level offenders from receiving lengthy jail sentences” as the need for these reforms.

Bauters, despite overseeing a 16% increase in crime in his own city, cited data suggesting crime is actually on the decline in the state. The Public Policy Institute notes violent crime is in fact up from 2016 but varies dramatically by region and despite recent increases, remains at overall historic lows.

The rest of council expressed support for our voting delegate, represented by Councilmember Ally Medina, to oppose these reforms at an upcoming League of California Cities conference.


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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


    • I guess the argument can be made that that state policy was changed based on anecdotal evidence when Prop 47 was passed and sold to us as “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act”. Did our lawmakers get this right on the first shot … for does the law need to be tweaked a bit to be effective? I’m hopeful there’s a sweet spot where people are given second chances AND being a career criminal is disincentivized.

  1. Mike M. I’m very sorry about your loss of a friend, I was so upset when it happened – for a freakin laptop, seriously. It’s about time these thefts received some exposure! I fear we have become hardened to this stuff and it’s become normal. This is crap, thugs stealing laptops, cellphones, backpacks. I had fire alarm testing done in my apartment building today and worked half the day with ear pods in to drown out the noise, rather than go to a nearby coffee shop. I have not heard about one person getting caught either. Ugh I hate thieves.

  2. Trust your eyes on this one. If John Bauters is saying crime has decreased since Prop 47, he’s full of it. (But if he’s a lobbyist. give him a break. He has to say whatever he’s paid to say. If the Prop 47 people are paying, you can bet he’s saying Prop 47 is working great. Otherwise, he’s out of a job.)

    With the exception of burglary, EVERY SINGLE CATEGORY of violent crime and property crime increased in California in the two years after Prop 47.

    And that’s understating it. There are two mitigating factors that politicians avoid:

    The first is reporting bias. Local police reduce their responsiveness to non-violent crime when they can’t successfully prosecute (Prop 47). This results in under-reporting as citizens give up calling the police (ask anyone in West Oakland or any local beat officer).

    Second, and this is the usual way politicians lie with data, crime had been declining for 20 years. So saying crime is going down (and it’s not) is still meaningless. The question is not whether crime is going down but whether it’s going down as fast as it was before you implemented your law.

    For example, if crime had been decreasing 3% per year before Prop 47 and then after Prop 47 crime was only decreasing at 1% per year, then things are worse than they were…but the politician will say “See! Crime is still going down”.

    Politicians always put holes in the boat while the tide is coming in. The boat may now be sinking, but the politician will say “Look, the boat is still rising. The holes have no effect.”

    From the FBI UCS Annual Crime Reports for California

    Crime per 100,000 people

    2014 (Prop 47) / 2016 (most recent FBI data) / % increase decrease

    Violent: 396 / 445 / UP 12%

    Property: 2442 / 2553 / UP 4%

    Murder: 4.4 / 4.9 / UP 10%
    Forcible Rape: 21.6 / 25.9 / UP 17%
    Robbery: 125.5 / 139.6 / UP 11%
    Aggravated Assault: 236.7 / 265.9 / UP 11%
    Burglary: 522 / 480 / down 8%
    Larceny-Theft: 1528 / 1623 / UP 6%
    Vehicle Theft: 391 / 450 / UP 15%

  3. I witnessed a group of juveniles, matching the description on this video, steal a woman’s laptop yesterday at the Barnes and Noble Cafe.

  4. I moved here from Baltimore a couple years ago where they had the same laptop-snatching issue. It got so bad that some cafes quit offering free wi-fi so customers would quit coming in with their laptops. The side benefit was it actually opened up spots so other customers could find a seat, so business for some of the cafes actually increased. One cafe quit offering wi-fi from 11-2, just so they could attract more customers over lunchtime.

    • They caught a couple kids in Berkeley not too long ago after a sting operation but clearly this is an ongoing issue and we all need to be vigilant.
      Andra, this is an interesting take. I’ve read some criticism over the years by patrons who complained of no laptop policies. Cafe’s of course hate when all the tables are claimed by students/remote workers who buy a cup of coffee and squat for 4 hours. I’d personally rather see this type of crime addressed by law enforcement instead of having to alter my behavior. My $.02.

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