Undercover officers put in Berkeley coffee shops to stop laptop thefts

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Undercover officers were placed in Berkeley coffee shops on Tuesday in an effort to stop laptop thefts.

This is something police have done in the past.

The crime happens very quickly and repeatedly. Thieves are snatching laptops from tabletops of unsuspecting customers.

Berkeley police say they are seeing an average of two-to-three of these crimes a week now that Cal students are back on campus.

“There’s an influx of people who may not be familiar with the area,” police said. “The students coming in freshman, and they’re a lot more electronic devices out there that can be stolen from people. We don’t want that to happen.”

The crime ranges from a simple snatch-and-grab, but sometimes, it can turn more serious.

“I remember one case recently where a young woman had her phone stolen and she almost ended up getting run over by a car,” police said. “That’s not something we…want to see”

Police say in addition to being aware of your surroundings and not leaving your devices unattended, they suggest not sitting with your laptop by the exit since it’s a quick getaway for a thief.

Other tips involve technology.

“If your device has some sort of tracking software, make sure it’s activated,” police said. “If you’re working on something sensitive…in general, you should back up your work. That means put it on a flash drive or save it on the iCloud or whatever…”

One student KRON4 talked with says he avoids the problem altogether by keeping his laptop at home.

“I only bring my computer when I absolutely really need it on-campus,” he said. “But no, it’s unfortunate because it’s not just…it’s not just the value of the computer, it’s what’s on the computer…It has more like meaning to class and it has more meaning to classwork than it does the monetary value and that’s the really sad thing to me.”

Police say not only does this crime tend to increase starting in the fall, but October is an especially bad month for laptop theft because that’s when it starts getting dark earlier.

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