Copper and Robbers 

Pennywise thieves hit hills-dwellers, UC's finest are pissed off, and did God visit Kensington?

It's only funny if it's not your handrail they're stealing. Sure, other districts have their homicides. Their indecent exposures. Their bank robberies: Why, Montclair Village's World Savings was robbed on June 4, following recent break-ins at Montclair Photo, Montclair Baking, and Montclair Optical, among others. But now the North Oakland Hills are plagued by copper thefts. Not steel. Not chrome. But reflectively roseate mailboxes. Rain gutters. Spouts. And handrails — from at least four different homes along Grand View Drive, one of them hit twice in the last three weeks. Some of the fixtures were torn from their moorings in haste, others carefully unscrewed.

A penny-counterfeiting cell? Nope. Copper theft is the new pink. Rapid development in China has tripled prices since 2003. Reports are pouring in from all over America about copper thieves being electrocuted while trying to steal wire from high-voltage utility poles. Last month, Boston-area priests helped cops catch a serial spout-snatcher who preyed on churches. Tacoma-area night games were canceled this season after 4,500 feet of stolen wire left baseball fields dark.

On a neighborhood forum, one local hills-dweller mused about spraying copper fixtures with "arsenic or rat poison or, maybe, plutonium? That might be an effective deterrent" — a joke, a joke, the poster insisted.

Hate and pork poaching: In Berkeley, a hate crime was reported on June 3 after the words "penis" and "fag" were chalked on a sidewalk on Jefferson Street. A gay couple living nearby felt that this message might be meant for them. That capped a week of robberies: bacon stolen from a homeless person May 30 on the 1900 block of University, condoms stolen later that day from Walgreens on Adeline, $10,000 from Andronico's on Telegraph on June 1. Sounds like one hell of a party.

Excretory crimes: As Alameda officers made the latest of sixteen arrests in a two-month sweep targeting graffiti taggers, their Albany counterparts were summoned to Masonic Avenue near Solano where a man was "acting weird, flipping things and people off, screaming, and acting like he is flatulating at people as they walk by." That same day, May 25, UC Berkeley cops ascended a ladder to clear items from one of the oak trees alongside Memorial Stadium where protesters have lodged for months. Bearing a bucket of urine, aerial activist Brent Karlin "basically monkey-climbed" from bough to bough, according to Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya, "and tried to pour the urine on the officers." As they scrambled down, Karlin snatched their ladder away, thus stealing police property. Several days later, officers returned with a warrant and apprehended Karlin, who faces a bouquet of charges, including assault on a peace officer with urine. They have a law for that?

Life in the fast lane: Kensington's police department averages fewer than five calls a day. Recent mayhem has included a game of ding dong ditch on Amherst Avenue, the untraceable sound of hammering on Highgate Road, and, on Yale Avenue, a "girl band playing too loud. They agreed to play inside," the attending officer concluded. Along Cowper Avenue on May 21, the log notes: "JEHOVAH GOING DOOR TO DOOR." Watchtower hawkers — or the Second Coming?

Trouble in Model City: Irate Rockridge and Temescal folks have been buzzing online about seceding from Oakland to reduce neighborhood crime. It's an exit strategy echoing that of the North Oakland Flatlands Leadership Action Committee, which recently proposed to Councilwoman Jane Brunner and Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Israel that the portion of Oakland using a 94608 zip code be annexed onto the City of Emeryville, also with crime in mind.

Rockridgers "are frightened," noted a June 5 letter sent to Councilwoman Brunner by Abby Pollak and Carol Bieri, cochairs of the Rockridge Boulevard Neighborhood Association. "We are no longer talking petty crime, but rather armed robberies in broad daylight, armed home invasions, car thefts and break-ins, muggings (with knives and guns), and attacks on residents."

Lamenting a police force that lacks the resources to support beat patrols, Pollak and Bieri cite "backed-up court dockets ... cases plea-bargained down to manslaughter or parole violation, lack of jail space ... all of which seem to have given Oakland the reputation of being a 'revolving-door law-free' zone." While the OPD lacks even a fingerprint division, Pollak and Bieri note that Mayor Ron Dellums' proposed budget includes "a 24/7 car and driver" and a $60,000 raise for himself. Is that any way for America's first post-WWII socialist congressman to safeguard his "model" city?

Litterbugs and irksome psychics: Well, trouble brews in Walnut Creek, too. The May 21 police log records a citizen complaining that "a male at the bus stop just littered in the crosswalk." Two days later, a Creeker fretted over "a suspicious recording device" with which she believed a neighbor was surveilling her. The following week, a Locust Street Creeker complained that "a skateboarder is cursing at him." And under that brilliant mid-spring sky, a woman on Civic Drive complained that a known antagonist "is harassing her via astral projection from Illinois."


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