The Berkeley Apple store. Photo: TJ Gehling
The Berkeley Apple store. Photo: TJ Gehling

For the third time in nine days, thieves ran into the Berkeley Apple store on Fourth Street and made off with stolen electronics, authorities report.

Several local residents — including one woman who was inside the store when it was hit — got in touch with Berkeleyside this week to report the latest incident, which happened Wednesday at about 11 a.m.

Berkeley Police Sgt. Andrew Frankel said four to six people in their late teens or early 20s ran into the shop at 1823 Fourth St., grabbed what they could and ran out. According to community reports, they “snatched up” all the electronics on nearly a dozen tables in the store.

One local resident told Berkeleyside on Thursday, “My wife and I were just at the Apple Store and noticed the first two rows of tables were clear. An employee said they had been robbed again yesterday.”

Technically speaking, the recent Apple store incidents are considered grand theft, not robbery, which involves force or fear. But there has been significant concern at the shop and in the surrounding neighborhood due to the recent incidents.

In a report on community social network Nextdoor, another local resident said she had spoken with a Berkeley Apple store employee about the recent crimes who told her he is afraid for his safety but that employees have been instructed by Apple not to talk about it. He told her there had been six thefts at the shop within the past few months, including the three in the past week or so.

“Yesterday my trip to the Fourth Street Apple Store was waylaid by police activity,” she wrote. “Today, the employee helping me started shaking and fell apart when I asked him about what had happened. He said the store has been robbed ‘home invasion and smash and grab style’ three times within the last week and six times within the last few months.”

She continued: “He seemed extremely stressed and was worried about his safety…. He said he feels his life may be in danger because he is working in this store. After revealing what had gone on, he abruptly backed off and apologized profusely saying that he should not shared so much info with me and that Apple had instructed that he not share it. He said that Apple and BPD were worried that peak-season shopping would be adversely impacted by news of the invasions.”

Customer who witnessed theft: “I felt like I was in a ninja movie”

One local woman told Berkeleyside she was inside the shop at a workshop when Wednesday’s theft took place. She said it will make her think twice about visiting again.

“I love the Berkeley store but after this experience I may have to go somewhere else unless they do something about this,” she said. “It was scary.”

She described being at a table toward the back of the store when she saw a group of people run inside wearing ski masks that covered everything but their eyes.

“I felt like I was in a ninja movie,” she said. “It was so stealthy and so well-planned.”

The workshop trainer told her group to hide their valuables. The woman said it was frightening to watch the masked group working their way through the store, taking laptops off all the tables as they moved closer. The alarm was going off but none of the store security guards appeared to do anything to stop them. The woman estimated the thieves were inside the shop for about a minute, though it felt like longer.

After the group ran out, everything seemed to go back to normal, for store employees, at least.

“That’s what concerned me the most,” she said. “No manager came out, if they have a manager. Nobody reassured people in the store. Everybody just went back to whatever they were doing. It was the strangest thing. No manager made an announcement, ‘We’re sorry that this happened.’”

She said one employee announced, cavalierly, “oh, we got robbed twice last week.” The woman added: “They’re getting used to this as normal. That makes me, as a customer, think, ‘Why should I go here if they’re not doing anything to discourage people from doing this?’” 

She said she wasn’t sure what security measures might be helpful, but said Apple should do something to manage the problem, and have a protocol in place for how to handle the aftermath of these crimes.

“It’s their job to figure out,” she said, “because at some point somebody is going to get hurt.”

According to another local resident, two people also went into the shop Tuesday and stole two computers before leaving in a truck — and hitting another vehicle — while escaping.

(Local residents’ names have not been included in this story due to safety concerns.)

BPD: Berkeley is still a safe place to shop

Last week, a group of thieves stole an estimated 50 electronic devices from the Berkeley Apple store Tuesday night, and the store was hit again Thursday around 3 p.m., with a smaller group taking an estimated 20 devices.

According to one estimate, more than $100,000 worth of property was taken during Wednesday’s theft.

Frankel said he could not confirm the value of the property that was taken so as not to jeopardize the investigation. But he said there have been six thefts at the store this fall, including one in September, one in October, and four so far this month: Nov. 4, Nov. 8, Nov. 10 and Wednesday, Nov. 16.

Three of those cases involved a group of hooded males in their teens or early 20s who had their hoods cinched around their faces.

Frankel said BPD is working with other agencies where Apple has a presence, and that the Berkeley investigations are ongoing. He said, too, that as part of the agency’s regular holiday season patrol efforts, additional Berkeley officers are out in all the business districts around town.

Frankel also noted that no weapons were seen in any of the Apple store incidents, and there was no violence.

“They were focused solely on stealing Apple products and getting out quickly,” he said. “Berkeley is still a safe place to come and shop.”

Apple spokesman Nick Leahy told Berkeleyside the company does not “comment on matters of security,” and said any questions would have to be directed to police. He declined to say whether Apple is ramping up safety efforts in light of the spate of thefts in Berkeley.

Thieves target Berkeley Apple store twice this week (11.10.16)
Crime in Berkeley: Apple store theft alert, more (04.15.16)
Fourth Street Apple store reports theft by 7 males (12.04.15)
Police ask for help to find suspect after iPhone robbery of elderly man (video) (01.30.15)
Authorities: Berkeley Apple store thief strikes again (06.10.14)
Car used for smash-and-grab at Apple store in Berkeley (05.09.14)
Teen tries to buy 14 iPhones, 2 laptops with fake credit card at Apple store (03.18.14)

Berkeleyside provides exclusive coverage of many Berkeley crimes. We welcome community tips about public safety issues and other newsworthy issues via email, Twitter or Facebook. Please alert us in advance if your tip is anonymous.

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...