Sack’s Coffee House at 2701 College Ave. (at Derby Street). Image: Google Street View
Sack’s Coffee House at 2701 College Ave. (at Derby Street). Image: Google Street View

Police increased patrols near Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley on Wednesday morning after a man approached a child to ask for sex at a nearby coffee shop, according to the school principal.

Principal Jana Holmes sent a note to parents at about 1 p.m. about the incident, which took place at 7:30 a.m. According to her message, a man approached an 8- to 10-year-old child at Sack’s Coffee House “asking for sex.” The child was with an adult, she wrote, and they left the business. BPD then let Holmes know about the incident, she wrote.

Police described the man as transient and in his 20s or 30s, according to the Holmes message.

A BPD officer parked near Emerson on Wednesday morning and maintained a presence in the area, she wrote. The school — at 2800 Forest Ave. (near Piedmont Avenue) — is a short walk from the coffee shop, less than four blocks away at 2701 College Ave. (at Derby Street).

“All Emerson staff have been notified. School safety measures continue to be in place. All visitors must sign in at the main office. Staff members have been directed to remain vigilant and to contact site administration immediately if they see anything suspicious,” she wrote. “They know to call 9-1-1 if a suspicious person is seen near school premises.”

BPD Lt. Joe Okies told Berkeleyside that, as of Wednesday afternoon, the people who were approached by the stranger had not been in touch with police. A witness to the incident did call BPD, however, and prompting officers to respond to the area and let Emerson know what had been reported.

Okies said BPD responded to the area at 7:30 a.m. for a call of a person harassing a child.

“Officers learned from a witness that a man approached a child who was in the company of an adult and made an inappropriate comment,” he said.

Okies said the man was described as in his 20s or 30s “with a disheveled appearance.”

He asked anyone with information about the incident to call BPD’s non-emergency number at 510-981-5900.

Berkeley Unified School District spokeswoman Trish McDermott said BUSD also shared the Emerson report with all other district elementary and middle school principals. A phone call from the school is scheduled to go out to parents from 6-7 p.m., too, she said.

It was a parent who alerted Berkeleyside to the incident Wednesday and shared the principal’s message by email.

The parent noted that the message arrived at 1:02 p.m., shortly before school let out at 1:30 p.m. That parent said it was befuddling that it took so long for the school to notify parents.

“I’m actually kind of furious right now but am waiting to hear about why we are only just now hearing about this,” the parent said.

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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...