OAKLAND, Calif. - Oakland police say a recent increase in robberies near the West Oakland BART station has prompted the department to put more officers in the area.
"We've been having quite a few robberies in the area especially people in the area from BART," Officer Drew Simas told a woman walking by on 8th and Center Streets.
He was handing out flyers with safety tips and contact information for Oakland Police Department.
Police attribute the uptick, in part to the earlier darkness that shrouds the evening commute and the holiday season.
They say thieves often target people walking out of the station who are distracted by their cell phones and those carrying packages or other valuables.
According to police, in a one-month period from October to November, there were 60 robberies in West Oakland and downtown.
As part of its robbery suppression effort, police say it stepped up patrols and officers are offering rides when possible.
They say some robberies are committed by one person and others are carried out by a group.
"There are people who drive around in cars in groups. They'll pull over. Two will get out, do a robbery, hop in a car and take off," said Police Captain Jill Encinias.
Police say the victims are usually approached away from the BART station, in areas that are not well lit.
"My phone, I always keep right by my side or in my front pocket. Anything of value, I put at the bottom of my bag," said Georgia Williams who lives in West Oakland.
One woman told KTVU she is extra vigilant after being assaulted and robbed getting off a BART train.
"He grabbed me from the front and pulled me forward. I wasn't quite sure what was happening. He groped me and as he doing that, he grabbed my wallet from my back pocket and took off," said Karmyn Johnson who works in West Oakland. "Ever since then, I carry my Taser. I don't go anywhere without it."
Officers are cautioning people to keep their valuables hidden, avoid walking alone and go to a safe spot if you need to use your cell phone.
Police said since their prevention efforts started, robberies have dropped 28%.
Police told KTVU it has expanded the crackdown to other parts of Oakland, including areas near the 12th Street and Lake Merritt BART stations.
The department said its efforts will continue through the holiday season.
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