There were five gun-related robberies in Berkeley between Dec 27 and Jan 1. Photo: Tanya Miller.

On Thursday Dec. 30, around 8:30 pm, two Berkeley teenagers were walking along The Alameda near Hopkins Street when two men stopped them to ask for directions.

Suddenly, one of the men pulled out a gun and demanded that the teens hand over their property. The teens complied, and the robbers took off with two cell phones, a wallet, keys and an iPod.

The robbery was just one of five gun-related robberies that happened in Berkeley from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley police department.

In December, there were 35 robberies in Berkeley, some done with guns and some without.

The recent spate of armed robberies has left Berkeley residents feeling nervous, as evidenced by recent comments on Berkeleyside. But the city’s crime rate has not gone up, according to Sgt. Kusmiss

In December 2009, there were 33 robberies in Berkeley, compared to 35 in 2010. In November 2010, there were 36 robberies, compared to 37 in November 2009. And in October 2010 there were 35 robberies compared to 43 in October 2009, according to Kusmiss.

In mid-December, Berkeley police arrested the people they believe were responsible for a number of robberies in North Berkeley.

Sgt. Kusmiss said the police department is always concerned when the community does not feel safe.

“We think the perception of crime is just as important as whether there has been an increase or not,” she said.

One reason people may think Berkeley is becoming more dangerous is because of the wealth of information now available on the Internert, said Sgt. Kusmiss. There is broader reporting of crime on sites like Berkeleyside,,,  and in neighborhood email newsletters.

“What happened is you educate and inform but you may create a perception that there is more crime because there is more information.”

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...