Four armed robberies in Berkeley this summer used a Craigslist fraud to lure victims.

In all the reported crimes, victims saw an ad on Craigslist and arranged to meet the purported seller at his alleged home address. Upon arriving, the victims were held up at gunpoint. Similar crimes have been reported in Oakland this summer, but the Berkeley Police Department said they have so far been unable to establish any links between the Berkeley and Oakland crimes.

Three of the four Berkeley crimes took place in the Elmwood/Claremont neighborhoods: on July 3 at 9:20 p.m. in the 2800 block of Piedmont Avenue; on July 9 at 10:45 p.m. in the block of 80 Hillcrest Road; and on July 31 at 9:13 p.m. on Hillcrest Road/Hillcrest Court. The other reported Berkeley crime was June 28 at 9:22 p.m. on the 3000 block of Wheeler Street in South Berkeley. 

“All the victims were responding to ads,” said Jennifer Coats, public information officer for the Berkeley Police. “People should remember to be cautious when meeting strangers, and to try to choose public places for meetings.”

A crime prevention alert from the BPD provides further advice:

  • Use extra caution when conducting business with unknown individuals or in unfamiliar locations.
  • Please keep all electronics and other valuables out of view and secured.
  • Do not carry large amounts of cash on your person.
  • Be alert to your surroundings and people around you.
  • Be aware of locations and situations, which make you more vulnerable to crime such as alleys, doorways, parking lots, stairwells and unfamiliar areas.
  • Call BPD to report suspicious persons or activity.
  • If you are the victim of a robbery, immediately call the police. Be sure to provide the suspect description, direction of flight, any associated vehicles and vehicle license plate number.

Craigslist offers similar tips on its own site about personal safety.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...