The end of the rainy season has unleashed a new wave of door-to-door scammers claiming to be selling things, needing things, or hard at work — but really with robbin' on their minds, practicing an ever-expanding set of strategies in Oakland and Berkeley. Neighborhood-watch groups report visits from strangers requesting donations and sponsorships as part of "job-training programs" for which they show no documentation and which are later revealed not to exist. (A Rockridger recounts one such visitor who "claimed he needed to 'contact people I have never met to earn job points and become eligible for a job in the community,'" then "claimed he had 'nothing he could leave behind' when we asked him for his card or info about the program."
Other scammers solicit magazine subscriptions, again with little or no documentation; the ordered magazines never arrive and the companies the visitors claim to represent either don't exist or don't send sellers door-to-door. Preying upon Berkeleyites' copiously bleeding hearts, doorstep scammers there ask for cash to fix cars or feed children: These too, the homeowners later learn, do not exist. Burglaries have been known to follow on the heels of these visits. That's what happened to a South Berkeley friend who gave bedsheets to a stranger who arrived one night saying she was cold and homeless. Days later, his front door was kicked off its hinges, his home ransacked, valuables swiped.
In a bulletin issued this month, Oakland Police Lt. Larry Riggs wrote that "two male Hispanics (one 40's and the other 20's) ... appear to be targeting senior citizens" in the upper Park Boulevard and Mormon Temple areas. Claiming to be repairmen fixing a neighbor's fence, the pair ask seniors for permission to enter their yards. "They then offer the [seniors] $50 to use their electrical outlet to do the work. The older Hispanic man produces a $100 bill and asks if the owner can make change. ... On two occasions the owner went into their home with the man following them, before changing their mind. ... The $100 bill is no doubt counterfeit, but what is more disturbing is that the residents are allowing access to their homes." Some scammers target not homes but offices. The Oakland Association of Realtors is circulating a warning about a thieving duo who have struck in Berkeley, Oakland, and Orinda, and now "there are reports they have been seen in additional offices in Hayward and Newark. .... Both come into a real estate office and ask to speak to an agent about purchasing a home. While in the conference room, one may ask for water or to go to the bathroom. When the agent leaves with one of them, the other steals the wallet from the agent's purse, then both leave abruptly. ... Description: Two males, 20s to 30s, medium height ... medium weight, African-American, nicely dressed, articulate, one wears glasses, one said he was a student at SF State, in one case one used the name of Jebron Johnson."
Where's My Car?
On the Pleasant Hill police log for May 18: "At 11:02 p.m., a caller ... reported buying a car online from a seller in Croatia that never arrived." It didn't? Who could have seen that coming?
If They Had a Hammer
Night after night, glove compartments — as many as six on May 26 alone — are being rifled through in Rockridge. At a neighborhood forum, one resident reports: "The only items taken were a tin of quarters and a Led Zeppelin CD. They left the Who CD behind and the sattelite [sic] radio."Another adds: "They ... took my old Peter, Paul, and Mary and a Four Seasons CD along with some classical."
Assault With a Deadly Melon
Is it the same carful of perps driving around Contra Costa County and chucking watermelons out at other vehicles — or is this the start of a new trend in produce projectiles, replacing that old standby, lemons? Three melon-peltings on three different late-May days appear on Martinez and Pleasant Hill police logs.
On May 24, a Martinez resident whose backyard is shared with neighbors contacted the police to report that "juveniles are having sex on a trampoline" in said yard. Also sexual but far less funny is the man seen videotaping children — not his own or of his acquaintance — in Walnut Creek's Heather Farm Park on May 22. According to a witness who called the police, "Mothers are asking him to stop and he says he won't." He backed away into the trees and was gone when cops arrived. Creepy.
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