At a downtown Berkeley bus stop last Saturday, Apprehension witnessed a crime. A teen couple was sipping tall Frappuccino-type drinks. Finished, the boy set his cup on a concrete ledge and turned away. Squealing "This is nasty," the girl dropped her cup onto the sidewalk. A bus arrived. Boarding it, they rode away. A trash can was inches away, but hey. Litter is Berkeley's dirty little secret. It's a misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $1,000 in California. But a town terrified of global warming isn't teaching its tots about this easiest of ecologies, and no one wants to notice that downtown is awash in junk-food debris.
Circumambulating Berkeley High School at 4 p.m. one Monday, Apprehension found packaging for (a partial list): Gummi bears, licorice whips, Laffy Taffy, Newport cigarettes, Krispy Rice Treats, Chinese take-out, Jell-O, Zingers, Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers, Wonka Grunts, Mini Oreos, Welch's fruit snacks, Lay's potato chips, Rice Krispy Treats, Kudos, Yogos, Gatorade Rain, Gatorade Frost, Coke, Pepsi, Luna bars, Crystal Geyser, Camel cigarettes, Marlboro cigarettes, Frito's Flamin' Hot Munchies, Svenhard's Berry Horns, Corn Nuts, ketchup, Reese's peanut-butter cups, A&W root-beer candy, SoBe, 7-Up, Shasta grape soda, Minute Maid grape juice, Gus grape soda, Push-Ups, and Funyuns. Lay's, M&Ms, and Cheetos made a remarkably strong showing, as did cups and bags from McDonald's, Carl's Jr., Cold Stone, Taco Bell, and Starbucks: Brand loyalty thrives in anticonsumerist B-town. If straws and cigarette butts were logs, you could build a barn. Seventeen bottletops dotted a seven-foot stretch beside a car whose bumper sticker, no lie, read SAVE THE WILDERNESS.
A second circuit a week later revealed similar wrack with slight variations. Is it sheer laziness or a sassy young screw-you?
The California Highway Patrol tickets litterers, usually after they defenestrate items while driving. "They just throw stuff out the window," says local CHP Officer Joe Frasier. "And when I catch them, they say, 'It blew out the window' or 'It fell out of my hand.' I say, 'Right, I just watched your arm come out the window and throw it.' They say, 'There wasn't no garbage can nearby.'" In the 26 years he's been ticketing litterers, the cop says, "I've never had an apology. I've never yet seen anybody embarrassed to be caught doing it."
Outnumbered: Multiple assailants jumping a lone victim. That's the trend now as local perps grow utterly fearless. Ten attackers stole a BART passenger's PSP game on September 15 aboard a train approaching Oakland's 19th Street, where six juveniles were cited and released, and one adult arrested. The next afternoon, a four-on-one strong-arm robbery occurred at street level near a 12th Street BART entrance. Six juveniles knocked a Cal student to the ground in front of Berkeley's 2610 Channing Way on September 8, beat him, and stole his phone. It was probably the same group that beat, threw to the ground, kicked, and robbed another student at Bancroft and College later that night. Three males and a female beat, threw to the ground, and robbed a Cal student on Gayley Road on September 4. On September 15, Mayor Ron Dellums announced plans to hire not more cops but 25 "outreach workers" to chat with Oakland youth: "Crime and violence," Dellums declared, "is not only a state of desperation, it's a cry for help." As in: "Help! Help! I'm kicking you repeatedly in the head!"
Shattered glass: During a wee-hours vandalism spree at Orinda's Miramonte High School, two former students smashed seventeen windows using trash cans, two-by-fours, and fire extinguishers. Surveillance video led to the September 12 arrests of one juvenile and eighteen-year-old Declan Johnston, who struggled while being handcuffed at his parents' Orinda home, and thus faces charges of felony vandalism and resisting arrest. An ex-junior-varsity runner, Johnston is also a contributor to the slang site UrbanDictionary.com. On January 23, he posted the following definition for "alowishious": "def 1 sly, vicious, and controlled; def 2 alloy rims, crest side rims; adverb (alowishiously): unatural presicion and acuracy with an act, usually a hanous act; murder ect. the criminal was alowishious in his murders, never leaving a clue on his bloody victims." Well. That explains it. Ect.
Ever after: Crime acquired a storybook air this month in Walnut Creek, where on September 7, according to the police report, a woman "just saw Rip Van Winkel flatten one of her tires." After stealing a man's sandwich on Sept. 13, another man "is sitting under a tree near the playground eating it ... and talking about witches." That same day on Locust Street, "10 males in kilts were getting rowdy."
Roughage rampage: The whimsy continued as one Creeker phoned cops "to report he is in a food fight with his girlfriend." Another was "using his finger to pretend to shoot passing vehicles." Another called to report "cabbage spread all over porch and front yard." Vandals attacking a signboard "smashed it with decorative rocks." Then on September 16, a woman reported "waking up discovering the entire inside of her house is covered in some kind of black substance that has the consistency of pepper."