Police are investigating a string of cafe robberies. Image: Google Maps/Berkeleyside

Armed robbers have been hitting Berkeley cafes and taking laptops and other items from their customers this month, authorities report.

The first robbery took place in North Berkeley on Solano Avenue, and the rest — along with a grand theft from a person — took place on College Avenue. (Unlike robbery, grand theft does not involve what are classified as “force or fear,” under the law.)

“Detectives are working to determine which of these cases are related and are examining surveillance video,” the Berkeley Police Department said in a statement released last week.

The first robbery happened Friday, Feb. 3, at 10:35 a.m. at a cafe in the 1700 block of Solano Avenue. Two patrons had their laptops taken, and the robbers, described as black males, fled in a sedan parked nearby. One of the robbers appeared 16-22 years old, 5 feet 10 to 6 feet 1, with a thin build and short hair; the next was 16-29 years old, 5 feet 9 to 5 feet 11, with a medium build, short black hair and a dark complexion; and the third was 16-22 years old, 5 feet 11, with a thin build.

Saturday, Feb. 4, an armed robber with a companion took a laptop from one person and a cellphone from another at a cafe in the 2600 block of College Avenue. The robbers fled in a waiting car. They were both described as black males, 16 to 20 years old, 5 feet 10 to 6 feet tall. (There were six other robberies in Berkeley on Saturday night in addition to this one.)

Sunday, three males robbed patrons at Espresso Roma, at 2960 College Ave., at 8:45 p.m. They took several laptops, and one of the robbers had a gun. They were described as black males, one was 16-25, 5 feet 8 to 5 feet 10 with a medium build; one was 16-25, 5 feet 8 to 5 feet 10 with short hair and a thin build; and the last was 20-25, 5 feet 10 to 6 feet tall with a thin build. They ran west on Ashby Avenue. Customers fought back and tried to stop the robbery, according to one witness account.

Five minutes later, two robbers with a gun stole a laptop at a cafe in the 2700 block of College, then fled in a waiting car. They were described as black males; one was 20-26 years old, 5 feet 8 to 6 feet tall with a medium or athletic build, the other was in his early 20s, 5 feet 8 to 5 feet 10, with an athletic build and short hair.

The last incident — grand theft from a person — took place last week Monday, Feb. 6, at about 2:45 p.m. in the 2900 block of College. Two juvenile males took a laptop then fled. They were described as black 16-year-olds. One was 5 feet 8. No further description was provided.

It wasn’t part of the same series, but police also handled a robbery call at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. A woman was outside a home in the 1600 block of Alcatraz Avenue when a man approached her, then “pushed the victim into the wall and onto the ground. The suspect pulled jewelry from the victim’s hand and fled westbound on Alcatraz,” said BPD spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel, in response to a Berkeleyside query. The man was described as black, 30-40 years old and 5 feet 8 inches tall.

Police declined to identify what was taken, but the item was described over the police scanner as a wedding ring.

Police ask anyone with information regarding these crimes to call BPD’s robbery detail at 510-981-5742.

Crime prevention tips from BPD

  • If you see suspicious behavior, call BPD at 510-981-5911 from a cellphone.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • When in public places (such as cafes and restaurants) keep personal effects close.
  • Don’t struggle with criminals over property; the injury isn’t worth the loss.
  • Back up your computer to cloud-based storage or an external drive.
  • Consider purchasing tracking software for your computer.

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 of the Year...