Being Watched 

License plates vanish, doughnuts get jacked, and Oakland gets federal cash.

As terrorist targets go, you can't top the Bay Area. That's why the Department of Homeland Security awarded this region $1,139,730 in July under the new Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program. How that money will be allocated "runs the gamut from preparedness programs to capability programs for first responders to citizens' awareness programs," says California Office of Homeland Security communications deputy director Jay Alan, "and nuts-and-bolts things like lights, cameras, trucks, and radio-interceptability equipment, all the way up to bomb-detection-unit upgrades, stockpiling medicine, and medical surge-capability improvements." (Know what nerve gas does to an urban population? Can you say "vomiting and unconsciousness"?) "You want to keep your first responders trained," Alan says. And advancing technology mandates updates. Homeland-security upgrades have a side benefit: fighting domestic crime. BART surveillance cameras, for example, "help to deter a potential terrorist attack like the one in Madrid. With the cameras, you see bags sitting there unattended — and you get the bomb unit right over." But sheer awareness of those cameras also keeps other malfeasance at bay: "If people know they're being watched, they're less likely to do certain things," Alan says. How well-protected is Oakland? "Far better than it was three years ago."

Classified Sad

In the latest Craigslist scam, a Walnut Creek woman who listed a room for rent received a large (bad) check from someone in the UK who instructed her to use the appropriate portion of it as a deposit and "send the unused portion back" — so she did, reads the July 25 police report. She sent $2,050. "No such person or e-mail now exists."

It Takes Courage to Tell

How many kids get mugged and assaulted but never tell, silenced by fear and shame? Those crimes go uncounted. A twelve-year-old Oaklander was walking to a local store along MacArthur Boulevard at Patterson Avenue on July 26, his mother informed her Laurel District neighborhood-watch group, when two African-American teens, "one with long hair on a motorcycle and his pal, approached him demanding that he give them his money." A young adult was with the pair. When her son refused, "they called him profane names and threatened to beat him up as they drove down the sidewalk chasing him on the motorcycle," then "lost him when he hid behind a car and then ran home." Returning to the spot promptly with his dad, the boy pointed out his tormentors, who rushed away: "My son was pretty shaken up and terrified." Laurelites urged the mother, who hadn't called the cops, to do so: "My neighbor's 13 yr old was jumped by kids on California @ Brown," one wrote. "This low-level harassment of young kids should be taken seriously." "Strong agreement here," another chimed in, "otherwise this behavior is considered acceptable." The cops were called. After "quietly listening to all of the explicit details provided to the officer by my son even though he was extremely nervous and scared in sharing the story," wrote the mother, "it was not until last night when everyone was asleep that it finally hit me how profoundly devastating this experience was for my son, and I truly regret not having called the police initially. ... I profusely apologized. ... My 12-year-old stated, 'That's okay, Mom. I just wish we could sell our house and move.' ... I feel a profound loss. ... Maybe I've just been too naive."

Metal, Metal Everywhere

... means more to steal. Stolen golf clubs are an ongoing trend and stolen license plates (such as the one snatched on Tamalpais Road in Berkeley on July 25) are an emerging one, and in Walnut Creek on July 23, three Caucasian men were seen dismantling three aluminum benches, loading the parts into a pickup, and driving off in broad daylight, according to police reports. In Martinez on July 25, according to police reports, two Caucasian men were arrested for uprooting a parking meter and stealing it — in a white pickup.

Miserable, not Les Misérables

For a city that cares more than most about karma, Berkeley is racking up a bad one with yet another tip-jar robbery, this time perpetrated by two men at Touchless Car Wash on Kittredge Street on July 26, according to police reports. And you can't get much pettier than stealing doughnuts, which two men did at King Pin on Durant Avenue on July 24. Think the robbers did it out of desperate need? Bandage that bleeding heart. Both pairs — at Touchless, two African Americans, at King Pin, a Latino and an African American (who nabbed $30 worth of 'nuts and battered a clerk, according to BPD Officer Andrew Frankel) — sped off in cars: from Touchless, in a black Acura, from King Pin, in a black Crown Victoria.

Gangs ... in Berkeley?

. Trees on 9th Street near Addison Street were spray-painted with "XIV" in red, according to a July 25 police report. That's a "gang tag," Frankel affirms. The color red and the number fourteen are Norteño trademarks.

TBMA

The list of characteristics by which police reports describe suspects is expanding apace. The report of a July 20 Walnut Creek shoplifting cites "theft of at least 5 pairs of denim jeans valued at $100. Suspects: black female adult and transgendered black male adult."

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