EL CERRITO -- Patrols have been increased in response to at least four reported armed robberies and three strong-arm robberies in March along the Ohlone Greenway, the linear strip of open space beneath the BART tracks, and adjacent streets.
No arrests had been made in the incidents as of Tuesday, according to El Cerrito police detective Cpl. J.T Wahrlich, but the department has stepped up squad car patrols on streets next to and near the Greenway.
It is also posting officers at the El Cerrito del Norte and El Cerrito Plaza BART stations from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Fridays to alert riders about the dangers of walking along the Greenway, Wahrlich said.
Despite the rash of robberies in March, total robberies through the first three months of the year were down compared with the first three months of 2013, with only six robberies reported in January and February of this year, according to El Cerrito police analyst Samantha Wendling.
Dave Hartung, head of the department's detective division, said that the city has had spurts of robberies on the Greenway but that the overall trend is that crime in the area is going down.
"Crime is down from what it has been at its worst in the past," said Hartung, who pointed to the improvement in the robbery statistics from the first three months of last year. "Overall, crime is showing a downward trend here and in our surrounding communities."
Catherine Krueger, chairwoman of El Cerrito's Crime Prevention Committee said she thinks a BART seismic retrofitting project that closed portions of the Greenway from October 2013 to January 2014 removed it as a site for crime.
"Prior to the BART retrofitting project, officers were warning people not to walk there," Krueger said. "Now we're back to the way things were before the closure."
No further incidents had been reported as of April 10, Wendling said.
The first reported incident occurred on March 5, when a man was confronted by three suspects and hit in the back of the head with a blunt object. Two suspects allegedly went through the victim's pockets while a third held him at gunpoint.
The second took place on March 10, when a suspect grabbed and fled with a woman's purse while she was riding her bicycle along the BART path.
In the third incident, on March 21, a woman was allegedly grabbed by two suspects who stole her purse while she was walking on Clayton Avenue from the El Cerrito Plaza BART station at about 10:30 p.m.
The next morning, a man reported he was held up at gunpoint while he was walking along the BART path at Lincoln Avenue by two suspects who fled on foot.
Shortly after that, another man reported he was robbed of cash on the BART path near Wall Avenue by two armed suspects.
A sixth robbery reportedly occurred March 29, when a suspect allegedly simulated a weapon under his sweatshirt and stole cash from an attendant at a recycling center behind the Lucky store at the El Cerrito Plaza shopping center.
The final incident occurred March 30 on El Dorado Street about four blocks from the Greenway and the El Cerrito Plaza BART station. Two suspects allegedly punched a man in the face and stole cash and a cellphone before fleeing on foot.