Berkeley crime roundup: Carjacking, catalytic converter theft, arson

Readers asked Berkeleyside about several crimes over the past week: a carjacking and a catalytic converter theft Monday as well as three arson reports on New Year’s Day.


Readers asked Berkeleyside to find out about several crimes over the past week. Information about them appears below. Send tips to Berkeleyside with your public safety questions.

CARJACKING IN SOUTHWEST BERKELEY¬†Two people with a gun took a Prius from a woman in her 60s on Monday night, authorities report. The woman had just finished parking her car at 7:10 p.m. in the 2400 block of West Street (near Channing Way) when two people with a handgun approached her from behind, police said. The pair demanded the woman’s keys and drove off in her silver Prius. The California Highway Patrol later found the abandoned vehicle in Oakland.

One of the individuals was described as a Black male, 15 to 18 years old, wearing a gray zip-up hooded sweatshirt, a black mask and gray sweatpants, police said. The other was described as Black man, 18-20 years old, about 5 feet 9 inches tall in a black mask, wearing a light-colored hooded sweatshirt and light-colored sweatpants.

Vehicle theft has become increasingly common in Berkeley, but carjacking incidents remain rare. In 2018, the most recent full-year data available, there were six. In 2019, Berkeleyside wrote about five carjacking reports. After publication, the department said there had been 14 carjacking incidents in 2019 and 15 in 2020.


Police arrested a man after an attempted catalytic converter theft Monday. Photo: Ford Whitefield-brewer

ATTEMPTED CATALYTIC CONVERTER THEFT IN WEST BERKELEY On Monday just after 3:40 p.m., police responded to 10th Street and University Avenue on a report of someone trying to steal a catalytic converter from a parked Prius, police said. Witnesses told police they had seen the theft attempt while it was happening, then confronted the person responsible and restrained him, according to BPD.

“A second suspect waiting in a car nearby drove aggressively toward the witnesses and the restrained suspect (presumably in the hopes of scaring away the witnesses),” BPD said. The driver then fled the area heading north on 10th without hitting any of the pedestrians.

Police who responded to the area arrested the man who had been restrained. He was identified as 34-year-old Fabian Deleonbeas of Oakland, BPD said. He was arrested on suspicion of attempted grand theft and probation violation and was later released with a citation. The case remains under investigation.

SOUTHSIDE ARSON TRIO¬†Police investigated three incidents of arson in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood on New Year’s Day, authorities report. At 6:19 a.m., emergency workers responded to the 2500 block of Ellsworth Street (near Dwight Way) on a report of a recycling bin that had been set on fire. Two minutes later, they got a report about a fire inside a large steel dumpster in the 2300 block of Haste Street (near Ellsworth).

The other arson call was handled by the University of California Police Department. Emergency workers actually got that call first, at 5:58 a.m., to the 2300 block of Bancroft Way where a parking kiosk had been set on fire. UCPD officers investigated that incident and arrested 57-year-old Robert Martinez of Berkeley in the area. On Tuesday, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Martinez with arson and possession of a controlled substance, UCPD said. He does not appear to be in custody at this time, according to online booking records reviewed by Berkeleyside.

Learn about crime reports in your neighborhood on CrimeMapping.com. The city of Berkeley also posts crime reports for the last six months on its website. The department also posts 30 days of arrest data online.

Note: UCPD provided information about its arson investigation, on Bancroft Way, and Berkeleyside added that information after publication.

Emilie Raguso is Berkeleyside’s senior editor of news. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: emraguso. Phone: 510-459-8325.