Midtown mayhem

A wave of robberies and a shooting have residents on edge

Midtown business owner Brian Crall was nearly mugged last month one late night after work. Now he walks in groups and parks closer to his Comedy Spot headquarters on 20th Street.

Midtown business owner Brian Crall was nearly mugged last month one late night after work. Now he walks in groups and parks closer to his Comedy Spot headquarters on 20th Street.

Photo By SHOKA

On a recent Friday, Brian Crall left work at 11 p.m. and walked toward his car at 21st and K streets. On the way, another vehicle pulled up and trailed him. Feeling unnerved, Crall picked up his pace. Then three men got out of the car; Crall moved to the better-lit center of the street, but the men followed him and demanded money.

“I don’t have any money,” replied Crall, owner of Midtown’s Comedy Spot. “I’m a comedian.”

The men asked for his backpack. Instead, Crall took off running. The trio chased him, kicking at his legs and trying make him fall. Crall made to it the parking lot at 20th and J streets, a busy corner, and then the assailants gave up.

This situation is similar to other recent incidents, in addition to a shooting near the Safeway on R and 19th streets this past weekend. All are part of an unusually high number of crimes in Midtown this past month; since November 9, there have been at least 13 robberies reported.

“Typically, we average two robberies a week,” explained Norm Leong, spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department. “But these crimes seem related, given they are in close proximity, use the same methods and involve people walking at night.”

In many cases, two or three men approach a victim between 11 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., mostly on Fridays and Saturdays, and demand cash or grab a purse. Sometimes the men are armed, wearing hooded sweatshirts, and some witnesses have seen them driving a white car.

For instance, according to police reports, three similar robberies took place within 45 minutes on November 13.

At 2:15 a.m., two robbers in hooded sweatshirts or jackets robbed someone and fled on foot.

Later, at 22nd and K streets at 2:34 a.m., there was another crime. The police report describes two females walking when two suspects came out from behind cars, approached and robbed the women at gunpoint. The suspects were described as black males in their 20s, and the car was described as being small and either brown or gray in color.

Twenty-five minutes later, another robbery took place at 26th and N streets. The police report reads: “The victims were walking when two suspects pointed guns at the victims and robbed them. The suspects fled in a white vehicle.”

As the police continue to investigate, Leong urged individuals to be on the alert and to report any suspicious characters lurking about Midtown. “Be aware of your surroundings,” he added, “stay on well-traveled streets and major corridors, and don’t pull out any valuables like cell phones.”

Rob Kerth, director of the Midtown Business Association, explained that the area does not have a neighborhood-watch program. But he said the MBA helps fund another group, the Lavender Angels, which also uses volunteers to watchdog the streets.

“Midtown is a fun and easygoing place,” Kerth said, “so it is easy to forget we are in a big city.”

As for Crall: After escaping his pursuers, he called the police, who arrived within 10 minutes, he said, as well as a helicopter and the California Highway Patrol. The suspects were not apprehended, however.

Since, he has instructed Comedy Spot performers to leave in groups and also has adjusted his own routine. “I leave earlier and park closer to the building,” he said. He also says he would like to see more police presence and improved street lighting.

“Because these things usually end in one of two ways: The suspects get caught or somebody gets shot.”