Thieves using force in Fresno's Tower District

FRESNO, Calif.

It's kind of a new twist on the old crime of a "snatch and grab." Thieves are targeting personal computers at businesses in the Tower, and in at least one case, they've been willing to use force.

On a typical day in the Tower District, dozens of people relax on patios -- many using laptops for work or play, and many unaware they could be targets for crooks.

Annette Ash was one of the unsuspecting until this month.

"So as this guy walked by, just bam, you know, clocked my friend in the head and he went down," Ash said.

The attack happened as Ash sat in front of Revue, planning a tour to Germany for her band. The crook snatched her computer and ran. Her music, photos, and all the plans for her tour were all gone.

Witnesses chased the man, but police have not been able to identify him yet. Investigators say the physical assault makes the crime more concerning, but also leads them to believe they'll find the suspect.

"Any time they ratchet it up and steal with force, that's usually a type of person that will come in contact with law enforcement again," said Sgt. Greg Noll.

Less than two weeks after that robbery, another Tower District victim. Surveillance video from inside Teazer -- right across the street from Revue -- shows a man walking into the store Monday night. He disappears from sight just before snatching a computer and leaving out a side door.

Police believe this is a different man than the man who took Ash's computer, but they say these crimes are becoming a trend. They're urging people to stay aware, even in comfortable surroundings -- a message Ash is taking to heart.

"I will never do that again and I will always carry pepper spray or something with me," she said.

Ash says she's now a little leery about the Tower, but she will be back soon. She'll be singing and playing at Roger Rocka's in a couple weeks, pepper spray at the ready.

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