Oakland car theft suspect arrested in southwest Berkeley

The Scanner scoured OPD arrest records to try to figure out what happened after readers reported "major police activity" in the area.

Oakland car theft suspect arrested in southwest Berkeley
The Oakland Police Department helicopter, ARGUS, was overhead during Thursday night's arrest in southwest Berkeley. OPD

Oakland police arrested a car theft suspect in Berkeley on Thursday night with the help of OPD's ARGUS helicopter, authorities report.

Details remain slim, but multiple Scanner readers asked about the incident after seeing "major police activity" on Eighth Street near Heinz Avenue beginning at about 7:25 p.m.

One reader saw the OPD helicopter "flying around our area very low, shining spotlights on our houses and yards" at about 7:40 p.m. Thursday. "Obviously they are looking for someone."

Some local residents said they tried calling the Berkeley Police Department but were unable to learn much because BPD was not involved.

A different reader said he saw multiple unmarked police cars and one person being taken into custody.

OPD's media unit was initially unable to find the call in its records using the time and arrest location in Berkeley.

The Scanner then scoured OPD arrest records to figure out what case it might be and was ultimately able to find the name of the man who was arrested. That allowed OPD to find the report on Sunday evening.

The incident began Thursday just after 7 p.m. in the 3100 block of International Blvd. in East Oakland when OPD officers observed a stolen vehicle there.

OPD's helicopter and officers on the ground followed the driver to the 2800 block of Eighth Street in Berkeley, about 10 miles away, at which point he fled on foot along with his two passengers, OPD said.

OPD searched the area and ultimately arrested the driver, 25-year-old Ronald Avilez-Lopez, on suspicion of vehicle theft and possession of the stolen car, OPD said.

He was arrested at 8 p.m., according to booking records.

Avilez-Lopez's two passengers were detained but ultimately released, OPD said.

As of Sunday night, he remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $35,000, according to booking records. He is scheduled for arraignment Tuesday morning.

According to arrest records, Avilez-Lopez was arrested by the Hayward CHP in 2022 on suspicion of DUI and driving without a license, and then arrested by OPD on Jan. 26 of this year on suspicion of vehicle theft.

According to court records, however, he has never been charged with a criminal case in Alameda County Superior Court.

OPD said its investigation is ongoing and asked anyone with information about it to call OPD's Criminal Investigations Division at 510-238-3728.

Oakland had nearly 15,000 car thefts in 2023, a 45% increase over 2022, according to OPD data.

Berkeley had more than 1,300 car thefts last year, which was a 58% increase over 2022.

So far this year there have been about 1,600 car thefts in Oakland, which is about 15% fewer than there had been as of this time last year.

Unlike Oakland, car thefts in Berkeley are still trending up: There have been nearly 200 cars stolen in Berkeley in 2024 — which is a 29% increase over last year to date, according to BPD's Transparency Hub data portal.

Readers asked about this incident, which resulted in this report. Have questions about crime in Berkeley? Alert The Berkeley Scanner.