A rash of recent bike robberies in the Oakland and East Bay areas has cyclists and police on high alert.
Masked individuals have robbed victims at gunpoint in five possibly related incidents in Oakland, Calif.’s East Bay area since late March, local news has reported.
According to the reports, all incidents remain under investigation. No injuries or shots fired have been reported. However, many of the armed bike robberies share similar characteristics.
According to SFGate and CBS affiliate KPIX, reports by the Oakland Police Department, East Bay Regional Parks Department, and Berkeley Police Department, multiple robberies over several weeks shared similarities. In these cases, multiple individuals, sometimes wearing masks, brandished guns to steal mountain bikes. Some of the robberies took place during daylight hours.
Oakland Mountain Bike Robberies
The string of thefts started at noon on March 29. Longtime area mountain biker Louisa Spier was riding along Skyline Boulevard near southeast Oakland’s Anthony Chabot Regional Park.
Per SFGate, three individuals approached her on a popular bike trail with brimmed hats pulled low over “masks all the way up to their eyes.” Spier said they then demanded her bike, one of them pointing a gun “in her face.”
On March 31 around 6 p.m., two riders sat in a parked car at Joaquin Miller Park, just north of Anthony Chabot Park off Skyline Blvd. This time, reports said, two individuals approached the car and removed a bike from its rear rack. When one of the cyclists got out of the car, one of the thieves pointed a gun “in his face.”
Then on April 6, a car pulled up alongside two riders, also on Skyline just outside Joaquin Miller Park. SFGate said police reports detailed the incident, where two individuals jumped out of the car and demanded the bikes at gunpoint. The thieves then loaded the bikes into the car. They drove away with them and one of the victims’ cellphones.
The same day at 9 p.m., the East Bay Regional Parks Police Department said it responded to another reported robbery near Anthony Chabot. “Based on the location, timing and the suspects’ descriptions and actions, we believe our case is related to the other Oakland Police Department cases,” parks police Lieutenant Terrence Cotcher said in an email to SFGate.
Cotcher said his department, along with Oakland police, is increasing patrols in the area. The area covers approximately 7 square miles including parklands. Oakland police also issued an alert to the community, calling the robberies “an alarming trend.”
Berkeley Carjacking and Bike Theft
Authorities reported no new incidents in the flurry of potentially related robberies until April 16. That afternoon, local police responded to a carjacking that targeted the Berkeley High School mountain bike team. Bay Area local CBS affiliate KPIX reported two men with a gun confronted the team in Berkeley, at a location about 15 miles north of the Skyline Blvd. incidents.
There, a car pulled up behind team coach Dan Leaverton’s Honda Odyssey minivan during a stop to drop off a team member.
Per KPIX, Kalu Caldas had just removed her bike from the van’s rear rack when two individuals approached.
“Two of the coaches were outside helping to get my bike off and a white sports car just drives up really fast, stops abruptly behind us and two men in ski masks come out of the car and one of them pulled out a gun and says ‘don’t touch that!’” Caldas said.
The rack was loaded with four mountain bikes. Leaverton said the individuals told them to leave the bikes on the rack, then ordered everyone out from inside. One drove off with the van and three bikes. The other followed in the car, unsuccessfully trying to get away with Caldas’ bike, which they could not secure to the rack.
Altogether, the victims said the four stolen bikes were worth about $20,000.
According to CBS, Berkeley police and Oakland police are working to uncover connections between the cases.
Police Issue Descriptions
Police told news outlet Berkeleyside that witnesses at the scene described the man with the gun as 5’7″ tall, wearing a dark, hooded sweatshirt and black pants. They described the other man as Hispanic, 5’8″ tall, wearing dark or black clothing, gray sweatpants, and black and white sneakers. Evidently, the descriptions did not mention that the individuals were wearing ski masks.
Berkeleyside’s detailed report also suggests that data from Leaverton’s cellphone (which his partner tracked from their own phone in the stolen van, as it remained on for 15-20 minutes after the robbery) and nearby security cameras could aid officers in their investigation.