Berkeley hills neighbors anxious after recent robberies

Neighbors in the North Berkeley hills have seen a spate of burglaries this month, two of which have turned violent. Source: CrimeView Community

Neighbors in the North Berkeley hills have seen a spate of burglaries this month, two of which turned violent. The yellow marker shows one of them, and the blue marker on Senior, in the lower corner, will be reclassified as a robbery, police said. Click here to see a chronological list of the locations shown in the above map. Source: CrimeView Community

About 60 people crowded into Northbrae Community Church on Thursday night to learn how better to protect themselves in the face of a big jump this month in home burglaries, two of which turned violent.

Most of the neighbors came from the North Berkeley hills area near Fairlawn Drive, though Councilwoman Susan Wengraf said she saw people at the meeting from around her district, District 6, who were worried about safety issues.

The neighborhood is part of the Berkeley Police Department’s Beat 2, which has seen a steady rise in home burglaries since September. That month there were just two home burglaries, with five the following month, eight in November and 12 already this month, as of Wednesday, according to CrimeView Community statistics, which pulls in data from the Police Department.

So far this month there have been more than 20 home burglaries in Beat 2 and Beat 1, the neighboring beat to the northwest. (See the map above.) Five of those burglaries took place just Wednesday, according to CrimeView Community. There’s been an upward trend since August, when there were only six total burglaries in both beats.

Thursday, Officer Byron White, an area coordinator for the Police Department who oversees Beat 2, presented recent crime statistics, offered safety tips and fielded questions from residents for about two hours.

The two incidents of most concern included interrupted burglaries Dec. 12, on Senior Avenue, and just last Sunday, Dec. 16, on Fairlawn Drive.

During the incident in the 300 block of Senior, a man came home from walking his dog to find three people burglarizing his home, according to information provided by White. The man tried to stop them and, as they fled, they ran over his foot.

On Sunday, a woman was attacked in the 500 block of Fairlawn when she came home and found two men outside apparently casing her house. When she tried to get their license plate number, they struck her in the head and took her personal belongings.

In White’s presentation, he pointed out that, of the four North Berkeley beats he oversees, Beat 2 has been hardest hit in the past 30 days by many types of crime.

Crime stats via Byron White, December 2012

Source: Berkeley Police Department

As a result of the recent uptick, police have increased both marked and unmarked patrols in the neighborhood, according to police Lt. Kevin Schofield, who also was at the meeting.

Schofield added that, though it’s tough to know for sure, it appears likely that one burglary crew is targeting the area.

Some residents wanted details, saying they rarely see officers in their neighborhood.

Police said, this week, six to eight officers have been in the area daily for their entire shifts.

“This has become the priority,” Schofield told residents, adding that he had changed his schedule so he could come in earlier and drive every street. “I cannot overemphasize, however, that we need more eyes out there.”

Police asked neighbors to be vigilant and call in any suspicious activity.

White said residents should think about “layers” of protection, “as opposed to one item or one device that can be defeated.” His suggestions included installing lights and dead bolts at every entrance, purchasing high-quality surveillance cameras, getting a dog — or at least a well-placed dog bowl — and possibly a home security system.

Police said the neighborhood may suffer from a reputation of being an easy target.

Residents brainstormed possibilities to make themselves less vulnerable, such as the creation of neighborhood patrols, or the hiring of a private security company to patrol.

White said that even more casual activities, such as walking dogs together in a group, can make a difference.

Neighbors asked for more communication from police when incidents happen. Wengraf encouraged people to get connected with their local Yahoo email lists, and said people could contact her office for details.

Police said authorities are taking a look at a possible reorganization of beats and resources to see if changes should be made. The process could take up to 18 months, however.

Neighbors said they feared that was too long to wait. They also asked Wengraf to schedule another community meeting in January to figure out next steps for getting organized.

Wengraf cautioned those in attendance that changes could mean fewer resources for the area, depending on what the overall statistics say. But she said the current trend is hard to argue with.

“I think it’s pretty clear from the data that we are experiencing very very high property crime in the Berkeley hills,” she said. “The myth that has lingered over the years that the hills are safe is not true.”

Berkeley man injured after interrupting home burglary [12.12.12]

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  • The Sharkey

    So the hills are starting to look like the flatlands?

  • I’m going to say this one more time. Renters can be barred from keeping dogs, but dogs (real dogs not poodles) are the most foolproof home protection method that exists. A loyal well trained dog won’t care about a burglar baiting them with hot dogs, whereas once a lock is opened the game is up. All pet welfare organizations should be directing all their energy to creating policy that forbids landlords from discriminating against dogs. There are sufficient noise-complaint and vicious-dog ordinances in place that blanket canine discrimination policies should be unnecessary. With the policies in place now, I have uncontrolled dogs barking at all hours in my neighborhood and chasing my cats while their owners check their text messages. So I have nothing to fear from a policy that allows renters to keep dogs.

  • Whats_up_with_that

    Imagine how many people might have been there if someone had given widespread notice of the meeting.

  • I’m Jes’ Sayin’

    You obviously have no idea how cruel this remark sounds to people who are being victimized.

  • Yuki

    There were four burglaries over the course of three days last week on Panoramic Hill

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Well, after you get over it, perhaps people in the hills will start voting in ways that allow everyone to feel safe.

  • guest


  • hills neighbor

    It started as a small meeting at someone’s house, with neighbors from one very small area…the actual turnout was unexpected.

  • hills neighbor

    Um, most of us already do.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I assume, from your name, that you mean that you feel safe in the hills. My point was that the flatlands are less safe and have been for some time. I’m Jes’ Sayin’ is asking Sharkey to have empathy for the people in the hills who are shocked -shocked!- that the criminal element has made its way into their preserve. Those of us who’ve been dealing with that at lower altitudes sincerely hope that you’ll channel the shock into a sustained set of expectations for our elected officials to benefit all residents.

  • guest

    ” I’m Jes’ Sayin’ is asking Sharkey to have empathy for the people in the
    hills who are shocked -shocked!- that the criminal element has made its
    way into their preserve.”

    This is not at all what was said or meant. The comment was not asking for empathy but rather asking for at least silence in the wake of people being beaten and run over by the intruders. Homes and vehicles in the hills are regularly burgled and/or vandalized. The new news is the physical violence that has occurred recently, especially given that a neighbor was killed this year.

    If there is going to be a city-wide unity purpose, those who hold the mistaken view that the hills are somehow exempt from things that happen in the rest of Berkeley are going to have to give it up. The condescending tone doesn’t help either – especially since your premise is incorrect.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Since it wasn’t your comment, guest, you don’t get to lecture me on how to interpret it. But it’s a neat illustration of how to condescendingly tell some not to be condescending. If your feelings are so raw about these incidents, perhaps you should refrain from entering discussions where opinions may differ from yours. Policy discussions aren’t meant to be group sessions for the grief stricken.

    At any rate, what you call new news is old news down here.

  • guest

    Still wrong.

  • jdh

    There are already far too many dogs everywhere. Dogs are unnatural (i.e., bred by humans instead of evolving naturally), non-native animals that are very harmful to wildlife. Their barking is extremely annoying, and their feces is beyond that. The harms caused by dogs is not worth feeling “safe.” Get some counseling instead, it won’t cause harm to other people or the environment.

  • jdh

    All of the solutions here, including those offered by the cops, are nothing but attacking symptoms instead of causes.
    Any serious criminologist, if there are any left, will tell you that
    street crime is basically caused by poverty. If you want to end or at
    least greatly reduce street crime, get rid of poverty. Some of us are not willing to live in a police state just to feel safe.

  • Howie Mencken

    A burglary leaves a sense of violation that’s hard to shake.

    If you think what you own isn’t worth decent doors, locks and an alarm system, then you’ve forgotten to count the horrible anxiety that will be with you afterwards; Maybe for the rest of the time you live there.

    Thieves rob where it’s easy to rob. If your place looks tough, they go next door.

  • Che Joubert

    Thanks for the really flakey post. What does ‘get some counseling instead’ mean anyway? Are you saying the person who tried to help, by suggesting people might be safer using something other than guns or confrontation, namely a well-trained dog who barks appropriately, is sick? You know what is really unnatural? The way some people intrude on normal blogs with confabulated intrusive ideas and don’t even know they’re not being rational.

    And yes – there has always been crime in the Berkeley hills, usually due to the same terrible economic problems that cause most crime.

  • Howie Mencken

    The stinky spat below segregating ‘hill people’ vs. ‘flat landers’ is archaic as it is irrelevant.
    MONEY lives everywhere in Berkeley.

    Drive around those streets in the map above. There’s nice places and a lot of old small run down places hiding in the overgrowth. Inside there are oldsters hanging on because their property taxes are pre Prop. 13. And their biggest worry is how soon will the ’85 Volvo need brakes,again.

    Hill people vs. flat landers is so 1965.

  • anon


  • Charles_Siegel

    “With the policies in place now, I have uncontrolled dogs barking at all hours in my neighborhood and chasing my cats while their owners check their text messages. So I have nothing to fear from a policy that allows renters to keep dogs.”

    Let’s generalize this reasoning:
    I already have many shootings in my neighborhood, so I have nothing to fear from more guns.
    I already have many traffic accidents in my neighborhood, so I have nothing to fear from more cars.
    I already have many cancer cases in my neighborhood, so I have nothing to fear from more carcinogens.
    Does this sort of reasoning make sense?

    I myself have don’t have aggressive or barking dogs in my neighborhood. Your comment convinces me that I should be against laws that allow more dogs, because they could make my neighborhood like yours.

    Have you considered that you are contradicting yourself when you say both:
    “There are sufficient noise-complaint and vicious-dog ordinances in place that blanket canine discrimination policies should be unnecessary.”
    “With the policies in place now, I have uncontrolled dogs barking at all hours in my neighborhood and chasing my cats”

    If the existing laws were really effective, you wound not have all those uncontrolled, noisy dogs bothering you.

  • Mark Talmont

    If only it were that simple. I used to work on Telegraph at a cell/pager store, we had customers with no credit or employment history, but plenty of cash, driving new SUVs, high on drugs all the time…I know some of our competitors bought stolen items from them when we wouldn’t (but we got investigated when one of the more prolific thieves nabbed with one of our business cards on him). Many of our benefit programs effectively provide the seed capital for criminal enterprise. It’s just too easy to game the system because the policing is so weak.

    I used to ride my bike every day in the area around Shasta Road, around ’05/’06 I started encountering what most likely were gangsters from the southland scoping things out. They come from a place where wealth of that scale is defended by hired guns who shoot to kill, they look at you as too weak to defend yourselves so you deserve to lose what you’ve got. Welcome to the Third World.

    Did it ever occur to you that we are importing poverty through effectively uncontrolled immigration? So the Dems got their super-majority, now live with it. It’s going to turn out to be a bad deal.

  • Mark Talmont

    Get a police band scanner. Worth having just for disaster/emergency alert purposes, the police probably won’t recommend this (but the career criminals have them already anyway). You will find much of what you hear to be disturbing, but why live in denial? The veneer of civilization we once knew is shredding away by the day. If you can team up with your neighbors, getting a set of cheap 2-way radios can be very useful too. They will still work even if the electricity and/or phone lines are down, even if cell service goes off. Kids love to play with these and they can be an effective way to stay in immediate contact with them.

  • Hilldah

    How Berkeley of you JDH! You are not a native either.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Waiting for your insights on the more recent story about 32 robberies in 30 days, almost all in the flatlands.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    But since the crime mostly happens in the flatlands – see recent story about 32 robberies in 30 days- those oldsters don’t experience the consequences of the city’s policies.

  • Northsider

    I live in the north campus area, and twice in the last two months —
    once in December, and once in late January — I’ve had some weirdo knock
    on my front door.

    Weirdo #1 (December) appeared to be in his
    late twenties or early thirties, African American, about 5’9″, and
    fairly slender. He rambled something incoherent about V-Chips or
    V-Tips, and did not leave immediately when asked. I had to tell him to
    get lost several times before he left.

    Weirdo #2 (January)
    appeared to be in his forties or early fifties, African American,
    heavy-set, and about 5’11”, with long dreadlocks. The way he knocked
    was bizarre — too slow for a normal knock, and soft. I told him he had
    the wrong house; he said, “No I don’t, I knocked on your door.” He
    refused to leave when asked, so I went into another room, and called the
    police. They said they would dispatch someone, and I did see a squad
    car drive by my place. When I called back to ask what was up, they said
    they’d gotten a similar call from someone else in the immediate
    neighborhood, and gone to that address instead. I never heard anything
    else about it.

    I have no idea whether these incidents are
    connected to the recent rash of burglaries in the hills, but two in two months seems
    unusual. Please be careful.

  • emraguso

    I recommend that you get in touch with your area beat officer —

  • Northsider

    Thanks for the information.

  • emraguso