Rolling Plunder 

Oakland suffers from a courtroom crunch, shotgun butts whip as victims strip, and seventeen laptops have quietly left the building.

Seventeen Dell laptops were stolen from Youth UpRising, an Oakland nonprofit seeded and supported by Alameda County and the City of Oakland. The computers belonged to the Alameda County Office of Education's Cal-SAFE Program, which had been using them in classes for pregnant teens. The MacArthur Boulevard structure has a state-of-the-art security system. Still, sometime between when summer school ended on August 10 and the fall term began on September 4, a cabinet containing sixteen laptops was simply rolled out of the building, with no evidence of a break-in, according to Cal-SAFE director Bob Crouse. "They were just wheeled away," Crouse says. "The instructor arrived for the new term and thought, 'Hey, the cabinet's gone!'" The instructor's computer also was stolen from a closet, but the security cameras weren't running at the time of the heist. Crouse estimates the loss at around $35,000. Set up for wireless operation, the laptops contained considerable programmatic software, and the stolen cabinet was outfitted with built-in chargers. The nonprofit's administrators "don't really have a good explanation," Crouse says. Past events at Youth UpRising include a Hurricane Katrina anniversary confab in partnership with the Oakland-based activist group Critical Resistance, which calls itself "committed to ending society's use of prisons and policing." Also: "Prisons and policing are destroying us." Educators at Cal-SAFE, meanwhile, are scrambling to replace the stolen computers and keep on teaching.

Weapon of choice: Nine-millimeter semiautomatic pistols — they're pop-pop-popping up everywhere, like autumn marigolds. A twenty-year-old was arrested at the 19th Street BART station for carrying one aboard a Richmond-bound train on October 5. Another was found on one of seven students arrested the previous day for a series of bathroom stickups at Concord's Mt. Diablo High School. Both guns were loaded and concealed. Is that a roll of quarters in your pocket, or are you just planning to shoot me?

"Beat" cop: What does Kensington's brand-new police chief have in common with Karen Carpenter? Both were professional rock drummers, of course! Selected from a pool of over seventy candidates, Greg Harman spent 24 years as a Daly City cop before taking the helm last month in the former dairyland. But before that, he beat the skins with garage band In the Past. "I had really long hair," he tells Apprehension. "And, well, I used to wear sparkles in my hair and eye makeup. I wore these pink bell-bottom hip-huggers with tank tops." A favorite among these tops was baby-blue. The band covered classic hits and, yes, when performing in Lodi they always played Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi." "We hated it," Harman says, "but we had to." Now he's busy "defining roles and working out procedures" in Kensington's ten-person cop shop. As the first chief to enter this agency from out of town, he's concerned that locals will "get upset if I say I'm trying to make the department more professional. I'm not trying to take away the hometown feeling," he insists, but rather "clarifying how we do things and why we do things." Having spent so long as a beat cop and lieutenant, he might have a better rapport with officers and citizens than corporate-type chiefs would. "But it's a challenge," he muses. When he was a rank-and-filer and complaints surfaced, "it always used to be 'they, they, they.' Now that I'm 'they,' I can't blame 'them' anymore. The buck stops here."

Intellectual property: A theft was reported in downtown Berkeley on October 1. The loot? A "notebook containing 4 poems," the police report reads. That thief deserves poetic justice.

Courtroom drama: Why do East Bay criminals seem so cocksure? Why do we hear accounts such as the recent one by an Oaklander who watched the dozen kids who had just jumped him lounging and laughing in full view of cops who arrived and wrote up a report, but made no moves to arrest them? It begs a paraphrase of Chinatown's final line: "It's Oakland, Jake." One reason, according to Assistant District Attorney Thomas C. Rogers, is a local courtroom deficit. The number of Oakland's misdemeanor jury trial courts has shriveled from five to one over the past thirty years — and that one also has had to handle Berkeley and Albany cases since Berkeley's three courts were closed in 2003. "It becomes very difficult to effectuate a guilty plea where a defendant believes that there is very little prospect that his case will ever go to trial," Rogers wrote in response to a recent request from Oakland neighborhood groups. "Pre-trial judges daily tell deputy district attorneys in plea-bargaining sessions that this case 'has to be pled out for credit for time served' because we have 'no courts.'"

Trick-or-treat: Could there be a more suitable surname for a woman lying "incoherent," as the police report states, on the floor near the cash registers in Walnut Creek's Halloween Headquarters outlet on September 28? Arrested on suspicion of public drunkenness amid the ghost costumes and plastic headstones was a certain Ms. Hardgraves.

Strip-ups: You're minding your own business, gettin' your party on, when three men barge in, beat three revelers' heads with a shotgun butt, force them to strip, then steal a wallet, a set of keys, a pair of jeans, and a pair of sneakers. Occurring last month on the 6200 block of Doyle Street in Emeryville, it was the latest in a series of similar incidents. This tiny shorefront town is rapidly becoming the world's strip-and-steal capital. Elsewhere in E-ville, two men distracted clerks at Victoria's Secret while four women stuffed bras and panties into their bags and escaped.

Game theory: Remember that case last month when ten attackers stole a man's PSP game on a BART train approaching 19th Street, where six juveniles were cited and released? On October 4, a group of teens — "as many as five," the victim told cops — beat a man and stole his PSP game at El Cerrito Plaza station. They fled on foot, eluding capture.


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