Telegraph Avenue Business Struck by Massive Theft

Anybody with information about this incident can call the Berkeley Police Department at 981-5900.

Nate Tabak covers crime. E-mail him at [email protected].

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A throng of teenagers raided a Telegraph Avenue store Tuesday, raising suspicions about a possible connection to a UC Berkeley rally.

Some $1500 in merchandise was stolen after about 25 high school-aged teenagers stormed Foot Locker on the 2300 block of Telegraph Avenue at about 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, police said.

Forcing their way past an employee and damaging the door and a shoe display, the teenagers stole a number of jerseys, shoes and hats, said Berkeley police Officer Mary Kusmiss.

Much of the group had just "swept through" the Gap, where employees caught them trying to steal clothing, police said.

All available Berkeley police officers were sent to Telegraph Avenue in response to the destructive mob. The teenagers quickly dispersed, and most left on an AC Transit bus.

Police are actively investigating the incident, Kusmiss said, but it is unlikely the thieves will be apprehended. She said witnesses were unable to provide detailed descriptions of the thieves.

The incident has left Telegraph Avenue merchants furious and pointing to a history of similar troubles that have coincided with campus events.

Shortly after the Tuesday incident, BAMN held a rally on Sproul Plaza, calling for increased diversity in public universities, which was attended by local high school students. Protesters gathered at a Southside church before the rally.

Police said both events were peaceful.

While police said there is no evidence to connect the thieves to the rally, business owners have pointed to similarities with an incident last year.

In March 2001, hundreds of high school students spilled onto Telegraph Avenue after a BAMN-organized affirmative action teach-in at Pauley Ballroom. Stores shut down following widespread looting and an assault of a store employee.

The parallels between Tuesday's rally and the incident in March raise suspicions about what brought the thieves to Telegraph Avenue said Kathy Berger, president of the Telegraph Area Association, a neighborhood group that represents residents and businesses.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore, citing the peaceful nature of the campus rally, said there is little evidence to suggest any connection to the thefts on Telegraph Avenue.

While the latest incident was relatively minor compared to the one in March, Berger said any such occurrences are "outrageous and ridiculous."

"We are determined that is not going to happen again," Berger said. "Telegraph (receives) the brunt of protests gone awry, and that is not right."

Berger said she wants to work with local high schools to help track down thieves.


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