Q: What is a timely crime trend frequently committed in Berkeley, and what are the reasons for it and tips to prevent it?
Answer by Sgt. Mary C. Kusmiss S-6 BPD Public Information Officer.
A: This week, the Berkeley Police Department felt it timely and appropriate to talk about the theft and robbery of Smartphones, iPhones and laptops.
As popular culture has evolved and changed, so has crime. Small portable items, easily concealed, have consistently been items that opportunists focus on stealing. There was the Walkman, then the Discman, then an explosion of MP3 players, most notably, the iPod — and each time, the trend emerged that these were being stolen by the hundreds in the City of Berkeley and the tends of thousands across the United States. We won’t even start talking about GPS systems in cars...
The first and foremost tip for prevention is common sense. Each week, the City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) reviews lists of Calls For Service (CFS) and crime reports taken from the previous weeks and recent days. With some variances, the list inevitably includes a third to a half of all thefts with terms next to the case numbers like “Unattended”, “Unlocked” and “Valuables Left in Vehicle.” Be vigilant and safeguard your possessions, and they are less likely to be stolen.
Recently, the City of Berkeley has been challenged with an uptrend in pedestrian smartphone robberies. This is not a phenomena limited to the City of Berkeley. BPD previously sent out some crime prevention measures to consider. Now that all the students have returned to schools — from High Schools to Colleges to UC Berkeley, we want to stress the importance again as well as some context as to why smartphones?
Here's why: They can be wiped clean or “jail broken.” In addition, smartphones can be transferred to another carrier. This makes the iPhone and other smartphones very valuable. (of course your warranty is voided if you choose to do this on your own phone). "Jail Breaking" is a term coined by some individuals feeling as if they were in Jail having to load proprietary applications.
To help prevent robbery, please consider the following:
- Be alert to your surroundings and people around you.
- Do not lend your phone to anyone you do not know or take it out of your purse, pocket or bag to give someone the time, if asked.
- Whenever feasible, travel with a friend or friends.
- Walk confidently and at a steady pace.
- Don’t talk on cell phones or listen to iPods when alone, as they significantly limit awareness (especially at night).
- Be aware of locations and situations that make you more vulnerable to crime such as alleys, doorways, parking lots and stairwells.
- Call BPD to report suspicious persons or activity.
- If you are the victim of a robbery, immediately call the police or yell for someone to call police. An immediate report, including the suspect description, direction of flight, any associated vehicles and vehicle license plate number gives responding officers the best possible chance of locating the suspect and ultimately making a successful case.
Although we are not allowed to promote any one commercial product, in the interest of crime prevention,we are offering a list of some theft recovery programs that have been produced by software developers over the past few years and have helped people get lost/stolen/misplaced devices back in their possession. They also support officers and detectives in furthering successful investigations (and making arrests!)
The following is a list of some that warrant consideration. There are many, many more products and this is just a sampling.
GadgetTrakStarting at $20 per year.
Lojack for LaptopsStarting at $30 per year.
MobileMe (transitioning to iCloud): To be released.
PreyFree for three devices or plans starting at $3 per month.
Undercover by Orbicule: Starting at $39 per computer.
Remember, officers want to arrest those who victimize the community. BPD continues toward the goal of reducing crime by 10 percent in 2011. Together we can make a difference. Small lifestyle changes can have big effects, and if you do not have any of the products listed above or other you find elsewhere, please consider one.