Fewer robberies, rapes and aggravated assaults led to a 44% drop in violent crime reports for serious offenses in Berkeley over the first half of the year, according to new data released by the Berkeley Police Department.
The mid-year crime report for January through June 2014 — scheduled to be presented to the Berkeley City Council later this month — shows decreases since last year in many of the crimes that tend to cause the most alarm.
It’s the first time the overall violent crime numbers have dropped since 2011. Robberies, especially, showed a steep decline. Property crimes, too, also fell, other than a 4% increase in vehicle thefts, according to the report.
Each year, police officials deliver two broad crime reports to council: a full-year report about the prior year during the first quarter, and a mid-year report, covering the first half of the current year, in the fall.
The reports cover four types of violent crime (homicide, robbery, rape and aggravated assault) and four types of property crime (burglary, larceny, vehicle theft and arson). These are the numbers tracked annually by the FBI to look at national trends.
There were 108 robberies in Berkeley during the first half of 2014, from 221 the prior year. That’s by far the lowest the number has been at any point over the five years of data provided.
The report, from Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, outlines a number of prevention and enforcement strategies employed this year, from “rapid and robust responses” to weekly meetings about crime trends and the coordination of resources to address them.
The department continued its efforts using robbery suppression teams to target areas of concern and began using alert service Nixle to inform residents about prevention resources, missing people and, at times, developing incidents.
Update on beat realignment
Meehan wrote that the department has also been looking at reorganizing its beat structure, which hasn’t been updated in more than 20 years. It’s considering enlarging its beats so fewer bodies are needed to cover the same ground.
The current proposal is to go from 18 to 14 beats, and to try to create a special roving team to address “citywide crime series and trends.” (Read more of the beat realignment background on Berkeleyside.)
The idea is to have beats that better reflect current calls for service, equalize calls for service across them — so one officer isn’t handling a lot more calls than another — and better reflect the capacity of the department’s current staffing.
According to a city report from August, the department currently has 166 sworn officers, and 94 civilian employees.
At the behest of the police department, each council member held community meetings about the beat changes earlier this year to collect feedback and explain the project to residents and other concerned parties. Most of the meetings were poorly attended, however.
According to the mid-year crime report, the goal is to get the new beat system up and running by January, if possible, after additional “community education and outreach.”
The mid-year crime report will be presented to the Berkeley City Council on Sept. 16 at 5:30 p.m.
Robberies rise, but serious crime down overall in 2013 (03.14.14)
Berkeley pedestrian robberies up 35%, burglaries up too (09.17.13)
Berkeley crime analysis: Robberies up 25% in 2013 (05.16.13)
Crime in Berkeley up 11% in 2012, but longer trend is down (02.06.13)
32 robberies in recent 30-day stretch in Berkeley (12.28.12)
Berkeley hills neighbors anxious after recent robberies (12.21.12)
Berkeley shows big decline in violent and property crime (03.07.12)
Violent and property crimes decline in Berkeley (08.30.11)
Berkeley crime rates show steady decline (04.28.11)
Crime in Berkeley was down in 2010 (02.28.11)
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