Life of the Party 

Home-invasion robbers hit Berkeley, bikes galore get swiped at Cal, and campaign signs go poof.

Swiping campaign signs is a fascinating form of theft. Yes, it's theft: a petty larceny punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. But it is that rarest of thefts motivated not by greed but by ideology, in which the thief doesn't want to keep or sell the loot, just to vanish it. So what are you really stealing when you steal a campaign sign? Plastic. Paper. Wire. Oh, and someone's First Amendment rights.

Signs are being reported stolen nationwide on both sides of the political fence. On YouTube, surveillance footage of many such thefts bears such titles as "Democrat Punks steal McCain-Palin yard signs" or "obama08 sign ripped up by crazy lady!" Recent police reports reveal that, in the East Bay, McCain signs are the ones getting yanked — in Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore, and elsewhere. One Pleasanton home lost four McCain signs in five nights. "Theft of McCain signs from front yard" in the October 19 Martinez PD log is typical. The California Republican Party has "received a high number of complaints" from all over the state, CRP Deputy Communications Directory Kevin Roberts tells Apprehension. "The CRP has been vigilant in calling for an end to this practice and the protection of individuals' rights to freedom of speech and expression of their opinions." Other YouTube videos suggest protecting and/or booby trapping signs by oiling them, brushing them with Tabasco sauce (makes for hilarious eye-rubbing or nose-picking scenarios later), or rigging them with party-poppers. Bang!

Invasion Day

A North Berkeley resident on the 1200 block of Spruce Street got a nasty shock when two tall Hispanic boys about fifteen years of age knocked on the front door at around 1 p.m. on October 20, claimed to be friends of the homeowner's son, then staged a home-invasion robbery. "They pushed their way in," says Berkeley PD Officer Andrew Frankel, "and brandished ... a large rock," stealing the victim's wallet before escaping. It was Berkeley's second home-invasion robbery that day. Around midnight, an African-American youth — described as only five feet tall and around sixteen, according to the BPD report — smashed the living-room window of a home on the 3000 block of King Street, climbed inside, and stole the resident's fanny pack at knifepoint before escaping.

Garbage Garden

As she did a bit of volunteer gardening along a South Berkeley curb recently, Deborah Mikuteit discovered "a new genre of crime and/or blight which I will call the 'trash plant.'" Wanting to replace a five-by-two-by-two-foot agapanthus with "something more attractive," she says, "I began cutting it down, and lo and behold, so far I have found 68 separate items of trash that had been placed inside the plant — and I'm not done cutting yet." Along with "crime-related items such as an empty wallet and a toy gun painted to look like a real gun," the plant yielded 21 soda and beer cans, nine beer bottles, five brandy bottles, one wine bottle, four mini-liquor bottles, three miscellaneous glass bottles, a clock, a pair of scissors, three cigarette lighters, twelve plastic bags, nine candy wrappers, two cigarette packs, several ID cards, and more. Littering is a crime, although anti-litter laws are among the world's least enforced, and hiding litter inside an agapanthus is still littering. Mikuteit plans to cut down another nearby plant; "I might find a murder weapon inside."

I'm Just Axing

Does the Walnut Creek wackiness ever stop? According to police reports, a truck was "wrapped in Saran Wrap" by mysterious vandals on October 18. The next day, more mysterious vandals stuffed a homeowner's mailbox with "ice cream and dog food." (They also TP'ed the house's trees, but that's so 1973.) Also that day, a Creeker reported finding on her back patio a "green jacket w/a rusty hatchet" wrapped inside. It's party time!

So Cold

Nothing bad is ever supposed to happen at ice-cream shops, especially at nice old-fashioned ones such as Carvel, across from the UC Berkeley campus on Bancroft Way. Yet on October 22, a tall thirtysomething Hispanic man bearing a semiautomatic handgun "entered the shop," according to a UCPD bulletin, and "demanded the money in the cash register." The terrified clerk complied. The criminal stole the shop's cordless phone too. It's too hot to enjoy sundaes in HELL.

Sticky Fingers Everywhere

It's anything-that's-not-nailed-down time again, with a disabled placard stolen from a car on the 2300 block of Berkeley's Grant Street on October 15, a diaper bag stolen on the 1600 block of Berkeley's Hearst Avenue on October 16, and sixty bras stolen from an Antioch store on October 17, all according to police reports. Also on October 17, six bikes were swiped on the UC Berkeley campus, including a $700 Redline Conquest B27 Hybrid and a $600 Trek B24 Hybrid. Two of those thefts occurred outside Wheeler Hall, according to UCPD reports.

Not Liking Locks

At the tenth-annual Critical Resistance conference at Oakland's Laney College last month, 1,500 attendees strategized about how to "eliminate prisons, detention, policing, and surveillance," explains Workers World contributor Gloria Rubac at PanAfricanNews.blogspot.com. Keynote speaker Angela Davis electrified the crowd "when she called for an end to prisons in the United States. She was swarmed afterward, particularly by youth of color who wanted photos and autographs from a hero." When Richmond Green Party politician Barbara Becnel screened her new documentary Tribute, celebrating killer-of-four Stanley "Tookie" Williams, "the room was so crowded that people were sitting in the aisles," writes Michael Hoffman at SocialistWorker.org. OK, let's get this straight: We eliminate prisons and policing, and the criminals go ... where?

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