A blond fiftysomething guy who “had a belly,” according to the police report, paid for services at Berkeley’s Clutch Wizard — motto: “We make Shift Happen” — with a counterfeit C-note on June 21. Halfway across town early the next morning, an unknown person paid with fake tens and twenties at Au Coquelet cafe. Hours later, two women “spent” six fake hundreds at Alta Bates Hospital, escaping detection. Counterfeiters had also hit Alta Bates on June 12. Laser printers’ sharp xerographic images outfox the Treasury Department’s continued efforts to complicate and copy-proof currency — although to aid law enforcement and make you paranoid, top copier-makers including Xerox secretly encode serial numbers onto every document their machines print, via tiny pale dots. Paying with play money is never nice, but how harsh at an outfit that declares itself “dedicated to humanizing your automotive repair experience.” Not to mention at a not-for-profit hospital. “We have a large cafeteria and a large gift shop,” Alta Bates public-relations director Carolyn Kemp says. “They are there to serve the community. So it’s not totally surprising that counterfeit bills might enter our money stream.” Right over the Oakland border, several ineptly made fake twenties turned up over a series of recent weeks at the Nomad Cafe, which bills itself as “the home of earth-friendly, art-friendly, and user-friendly community.”
Bad aim, good luck: An early-evening sun shone as an impatient driver raised a handgun and shot at a resident struggling to parallel park on Madera Avenue near Pierson Street in Oakland on June 19. The victim, who escaped unhurt, described the would-be murderer as having metallic teeth and the car as a weathered Olds that matched the sky. Neighbors say it cruises the area regularly and lacks a rear license plate.
Eyes on the flies: Neighbors do watch. One midafternoon this month at Oakland’s La Mancha Plaza, the strip-mall at Telegraph Avenue and 40th Street, a local saw a security guard urinating in a driveway. “I am still in shock,” the witness writes. “To think this guy is supposed to be providing security is ridiculous.”
Cause for alarm: They’re swarming all over parts of Oakland: Park Boulevard, Glenview, Cleveland Street, Piedmont Avenue. Ringing doorbells, usually clean-cut and clutching clipboards, they announce that they represent security-system companies: Some say Brink’s, some say Honeywell, ADT, GE, or Bay Alarm. Some even wear company shirts or hats. Offering to install alarms or upgrade existing systems, they sympathize with homeowners for living in a high-crime zone. They should know: They’re criminals casing homes for future burglaries. They typically ask about rear doors, ambient traffic patterns, and nearby dogs. ADT’s director of corporate communications, Ann Lindstrom, was horrified to hear of it. “The vast majority of ADT customer appointments are prescheduled over the phone,” she tells Apprehension. Moreover, “our ADT trucks are clearly marked.”
Fiat Lux: Working in her office on the ninth floor of UC Berkeley’s Evans Hall before 7 a.m. on June 19, a math-department employee smelled smoke. In the hall, she found a bulletin board burned, scattering smoldering ash. Darting into another office to warn a co-worker, she found the arsonist, clad in sweats and a baseball cap. He promptly fled, eluding capture. Math-related fliers drive many to madness.
Sticky: Who’s been prowling Berkeley, squirting glue into the locks of businesses? On June 22, Telegraph Avenue smoking-supply shop Annapurna got glued; on June 24 it was Chinese Express downtown and All Star Donuts at 1255 University Avenue. Speaking of doughnuts, someone stole a dozen that day at Berkeley’s University Hotel, just in time for breakfast. Other hungry thieves snatched candy from a Durant-and-Telegraph shop later that day; bread from Metropolis Bakery and meat from Mi Tierra Market the next.
Gotcha: Two armed men robbed a mother and daughter — the Korean-speaking mother, who knew little English, sustained a head injury — on the 2600 block of Woolsey Street in Berkeley just after 10 a.m. on June 23. The perps fled, one racing toward a Saturday-morning yard sale where, alerted by the victims’ shouts, locals seized and held twenty-year-old Ronald Chastang until Officer David Bartalini arrived to arrest him. Chastang’s camo-jacket-clad accomplice escaped, but Oakland police caught him five days later, linking 21-year-old Marvin Johnson with some dozen South Berkeley and North Oakland stickups. That included one on Shafter Street in Rockridge, after which he led a four-car convoy to a Shell station to use the victim’s gas card. Thirty minutes later, a car from that convoy was spotted near another stickup on Capwell Drive: The victim lost $900 in vacation cash. Cops found the camo jacket in Johnson’s car, parked outside his home on the 1100 block of Eighth Street. South Berkeleyites say they feel safer, “at least until he makes bail.” Johnson might be the gunman described as having a “robotlike” voice who robbed a stroller-pushing woman at Woolsey and Bateman in mid-June. The mother and daughter whose Saturday-morning crisis cracked this case have already packed up and moved away. Meanwhile, in Walnut Creek, on June 22 an unknown person used shoe polish to write “SHIBK” inside an elevator.