Police have reported sharp increases in home burglaries around Berkeley. (Click the map to view it larger.) Image: BPD
Police have reported sharp increases in home burglaries around Berkeley. (Click the map to view it larger.) Image: BPD

Berkeley police are reporting huge increases in home burglaries in early 2015 compared to preliminary statistics recorded last year.

Police received 70 home burglary calls for service in January 2015, compared to 46 the prior year. In February, the gap was even starker: There were 80 home burglary calls, compared to 25 the prior year. That’s a 220% increase.

In late March, those increases prompted the police department to put out a community alert to inform local residents about the issue.

The most noticeable pattern of burglaries is occurring in three neighborhoods, police said: north of Ohlone Park, south of the UC Berkeley campus and in the Elmwood district, as pictured in the “heat map” above.

March numbers were not available when Berkeleyside requested the information last week but, according to CrimeMapping.com — which compiles Berkeley police data — there were at least 78 reported home burglaries in March. And those numbers may rise slightly as reports continue to be updated in the CrimeMapping system.

Police said they are taking several steps to address the problem: “We continue to monitor this trend to attempt to identify factors associated with the increase. We are providing extra patrols and conducting special operations directed towards the apprehension of these burglars.”

According to crime reports reviewed by Berkeleyside, home burglaries have been largely on the rise since October, while commercial burglaries have been on a slight downward trend.

According to CrimeMapping, home burglaries have been largely on the increase since October. Chart: Berkeleyside/Infogr.am

Compared to early 2014, commercial burglaries have thus far remained relatively flat this year, according to data provided by Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats.

Coats also said the statistics she provided for 2014 and 2015 reflect calls for service, which are preliminary and could potentially change slightly.

Coats said a property crimes investigator was not immediately available last week to discuss the issue.

Police said they were called out to investigate 70 home burglaries and 26 commercial burglaries in January. Click for a list from CrimeMapping.com.
Police said they were called to investigate 80 home burglaries and 21 commercial burglaries in February. Click for a list from CrimeMapping.com.

To take a longer view, it’s worth remembering that Berkeley’s crime rate has been on an overall decline every decade since 1980, and reached historic lows in 2014, according to police data reported in March.

Explained Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan at that time, in a presentation before the Berkeley City Council on overall crime trends: “What’s interesting is that, while public perception is that crime has been increasing, the opposite is actually occurring.”

This year’s early increase should also be viewed within the context of a decrease in reports last year. In that same council presentation in March, police officials noted that home burglaries dropped significantly in 2014 compared to the prior year, with 25% fewer cases — nearly 200 fewer home burglaries — than the department saw in 2013.

Safety tips from the Berkeley Police

  • Be sure to lock up: Most burglaries occur during daylight hours and through unlocked doors or windows. If you have an alarm or surveillance system, make certain they are activated and recording.
  • Promptly report suspicious activity: If you see something, say something. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Frequently, the community’s tips have been instrumental in the successful closure of many burglary cases.
  • Keep your house from looking empty: If you are going away for a few days, have your mail and/or newspapers stopped, and consider installing timers for your interior lights.

The Berkeley Police Department can be reached by dialing 911, or 510-981-5911 from a cellphone, in case of emergencies. In non-emergencies, dial 510-981-5900 to reach the dispatch center.

Read more crime trend coverage on Berkeleyside. Watch a video of the annual crime report for 2014. (Editor’s note: Police initially said the neighborhood east of Ohlone Park has recently been a hot zone for burglaries; police said today that area is actually north of the park. The story has been corrected to reflect this.) 

Violent crime dropped 25% in Berkeley in 2014 (03.10.15)
Violent crime reports down 44% in Berkeley (09.08.14)
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)
Berkeley crime up 11% in 2012, but longer trend is down (02.06.13)
Berkeley shows big decline in violent and property crime (03.07.12)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...