Funny Business 

Customers on the rampage; auto-burglary ennui; and iPhone mayhem predates the iPhone.

Dissatisfied customers: A man stood sentry on June 29 in front of Solano Lighting — Albany's number-one Swarovski-crystal chandelier hub — telling incoming patrons that he was dissatisfied with the store's return policy. He left after being informed that blocking access to the premises could result in criminal penalties. The next evening in Walnut Creek, just in time for Most Shocking: Under Siege 2 on Court TV, cable service all along Renwick Place went down after an irate Comcast customer maliciously snipped his own cable wires. Two hours later at Berkeley's Whole Foods Market, a man was cited for having a 36-inch sword up his sleeve. (Speaking of swords: In Walnut Creek eight days later, one was stolen from a home on Wiget Lane.) Around midnight on July 7, an arsonist attacked Berkeley's main mental-health building at 2640 Martin Luther King Way with a flaming accelerant "cocktail," scorching its door. The next day, a woman was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon at Berkeley's Elephant Pharmacy after hurling a one-ounce bottle of herbal supplement at a clerk.

Phony: On June 27, two full days before Apple premiered its $599 iPhone, an eager man tried to buy one via a Craigslist ad. When he met the two "sellers" at the prearranged liaison spot at Knott and San Pablo avenues in El Cerrito, the short stout one seized him from behind, thrusting a "hard object" into his back. The tall thin one rifled through his pockets, seizing his cash. They fled.

Southern discomfort: No deaths — yet — in a spate of South Berkeley shootings such as one at 1817 Prince Street on June 28, when a red-hoodie-clad man in a white Buick fired at least nine rounds into a group. Bullet holes pock nearby homes. Locals are up in virtual arms over marauders up in real ones. "I'm so sick of Berkeley City Councilmembers who show far more compassion for the drug dealers who enslave others in a life of misery than they do for law-abiding tax-paying citizens and their innocent children," fumes the Lorin District Neighborhood Association's Robin Wright. "Take a look at my neighborhood: a dangerous slum, with homeowners paying the highest taxes in California." Another distraught neighbor thinks Berkeley government "needs the Augean Stables treatment." You know, from the labors of Hercules. When he diverted two rivers to wash away the dung.

Car capers: Auto burglaries — they're the crime world's white noise, so astoundingly common that they ... don't astound. Berkeley had two on July 11 (on Seawall Drive and Northside Avenue), two on July 10 (on Webster and Prospect streets), three on July 7 (on Blake and Fulton streets and Panoramic Way), and three on July 6 (on Stuart Street, Prince Street, and College Avenue). On that same day in Oakland, where they're so legion that many victims don't bother reporting them, car burglars struck on Ocean View Drive, Yorkshire Drive, Chabot Road, and College Avenue. More in Berkeley: on Woolsey Street on July 4, on McGee Avenue on July 3, two — on Eighth Street and Fresno Avenue — on July 2, on Milvia Street on July 1, and on Regal Road on June 29. May 18 was a free-for-all, with six in Berkeley's Claremont district alone. What's in it for the thieves? Often, laptops. On Blake, Regal, Fulton, and Stuart, stereos. On Lewiston Avenue on May 19, an earthquake-preparedness kit. On Hillcrest Avenue on June 12, dirty laundry. On Woolsey, rollerblades. On Oakland's Beechwood Drive on July 4, thieves "rifled through the center console, glove box, and ashtray, and ended up taking the $10 or so we had in quarters and dollar bills," a victim tells Apprehension. Ironically his car was also burgled on Berkeley's Dwight Way where, in broad daylight, the thieves took toys. "There's been a rash of auto burglaries," affirms Emeryville Police Officer Ferdinand Suba. Speculating that the thieves seek quick cash for drugs, Suba urges car owners to leave nothing visible behind. Steve Hekl at Oakland's Reliable Auto Repair says he is asked almost daily to fix windows smashed in burglaries, a $215 job that only comprehensive insurance plans cover. For the Beechwood victim, losing ten bucks "really didn't seem like such a big deal" because "I'm much more concerned about all the strongarm robberies going on in Rockridge" — two, for instance, on July 6 at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on the 5800 and 5900 blocks of College Avenue. We think of our cars as extensions of ourselves, yet we're resigned to them being ransacked.

Temple trouble: Unknown persons crept through the gate at Berkeley's Chabad Synagogue the night of July 8 and toppled the eight-foot-tall wooden menorah that greets passersby along College Avenue. It crushed a nearby tangerine tree. Do the vandals hate candelabras — or fruit?

Updates: The burglar-alarm scam has spread to Albany, where homeowners report suspicious characters claiming to work for security firms, asking to come inside. Bay Alarm marketing manager Jessica Harrich says it's happening in Utah too — and that while some scammers are thieves, others are employed by "disreputable companies" using "unethical and dishonest sales tactics ... using the fear of living alone to oversell unsuspecting seniors." Beware of anyone who arrives sans appointment. And the counterfeit campaign continues in Berkeley, where a man clad all in black used a fake $100 bill at East Bay Nursery.

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