Council highlights gangs, staffing during crime report

Pedestrian robberies in Berkeley from January to June 2013 mapped by location. Source: Berkeley Police Department

Pedestrian robberies in Berkeley from January to June 2013 mapped by location. (Click to see the full report.) Source: Berkeley Police Department

The Berkeley Police Department’s mid-year crime report drew compliments from city officials regarding the city’s approach to crime fighting, as well as requests for more information in the future about case closure rates, crime concentrations and response times across a range of offenses.

Police Chief Michael Meehan presented the report along with two police captains, Erik Upson and Andy Greenwood, Tuesday night in a special session before the city council. They said serious crime reports for the first six months of the year remained nearly flat compared to the same period last year.

Berkeley did experience a 24% jump in robberies overall, which included a 35% increase in pedestrian robberies. But police said the region has seen a 26% percent in overall robberies, and that Berkeley is not immune to those trends. Police also noted a 49% increase in robbery-related arrests in 2013.

The largest category of stolen property in robberies for the first half of the year included iPhones, iPods and other smartphones. Losses in that category increased 67% from 2012 to 2013, said police. Sixty-eight percent of victims were walking alone, and 57% had their phone in hand.

Click to see the full report presented Tuesday. Source: Berkeley Police

Click to see the full report presented Tuesday. Source: Berkeley Police

Police did not include time of day or detailed location information in the report for any of the crimes, though one map in the presentation provided some degree of insight about pedestrian robberies.

Police noted a large increase in forced-entry home burglaries in the first part of the year, from 183 in 2012 to 212 in 2013. In 41% of the 477 residential and commercial burglaries reported, properties were left unlocked or otherwise open to thieves.

(Read Berkeleyside’s analysis of the mid-year crime report.)

Officers also discussed proactive work the department has done with several Berkeley businesses that have large parking lots where they were seeing numerous auto burglaries. The department gave business owners information on the type of thefts and trends related to time of day, and advised them on possibilities for signage, video monitoring and when it might be wise to hire visible security guards.

Police said partnerships with the University of California Police Department, as well as a monthly public newsletter and other public safety outreach, were part of their crime prevention efforts.

Following the presentation, council members shared concerns and asked questions about about cell phone security measures, gangs in Berkeley and the beat reorganization the department is undertaking to reallocate officers and resources around the city.

Gangs in Berkeley?

In response to the homicide of Jermaine Davis over the summer, Councilwoman Linda Maio asked police to talk about gang activity and how the city can “actually try to penetrate or deal with” it.

Meehan said that, though the department does “see gang activity,” that it can be difficult to define what, or who, a gang member actually is.

“Is it somebody who says they are but takes no action? Is it somebody who takes action but denies it? Is it somebody who simply hangs around with other people who are gang members?” he said. “So it is a little bit of a challenge for us to decide what is, and what is not, a gang member.”

He said officers do see “some indicators” of gang activity in Berkeley, such as gang graffiti, and that the department is doing a “much better job” of both analyzing crimes and “understanding linkages between … individuals” involved in gang-related crimes. He also noted that officers are doing more outreach in the schools, particularly at the middle school level, to try to spread the gang prevention message.

More details requested on crime stats; questions on beat realignment, staffing

Another topic that came up during the council member question-and-answer period was related to efforts underway to look at the city’s existing beat map, which is several decades old, to update it and reallocate resources accordingly. Meehan said public meetings over the next few months will be part of that process.

Councilman Gordon Wozniak said he’d like to see more data showing how different crimes, such as burglaries and auto thefts, are distributed across the city. He also asked about response times for different types of incidents, which police said they could provide in future reports. Mayor Tom Bates asked for more information, next time around, on arrest breakdowns per crime category, and Councilwoman Susan Wengraf asked for information on victim demographics.

Wengraf suggested the possibility of posting signs in the south campus area to remind people of the risks posed by robbers. Meehan replied that the city had done something similar on Marin Avenue related to auto burglaries, and that the department could certainly look into it.

Several council members asked about Police Department staffing, and whether the agency could take any steps to fill vacant positions faster. The department is authorized for up to 176 officers, and currently has 167 hired. However, 9-10 officers are also out on various types of family or medical leave.

Meehan said the department is not able to hire anyone until positions actually become vacant. While the assessment process can be started in advance, it can still take up to a year to get an officer on the street from the time of hire, he added.

Council members thanked the department for their efforts to keep Berkeley streets safe.

“A lot of these things we don’t have any control over,” said Mayor Tom Bates, “but we appreciate the way you’re approaching this and are really pleased with the way the force is conducting itself.”

See a video of the full crime report and council session here. Community members interested in crime in their neighborhood can learn more via CrimeView Community.

Berkeley pedestrian robberies up 35%, burglaries up too (09.17.13)
Berkeley crime analysis: Robberies up 25% in 2013 (05.16.13)
Berkeley residents, police collaborate on safety (04.18.13)
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)
Big declines in violent and property crime in Berkeley (03.07.12)
Violent and property crimes decline in Berkeley (08.30.11)

Would you like a digest of the day’s Berkeley news sent to your inbox? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • Chris

    To the victim-blaming naysayers who argue that we can prevent pedestrian robberies if only people stopped using their phones, note this: “Sixty-eight percent of victims were walking alone, and 57% had their phone in hand.”

    Just a little less than half of pedestrian robbery victims did NOT have their phones in hand. The problem is criminals, not victims.

  • bgal4

    “Several council members asked about Police Department staffing, and whether the agency could take any steps to fill vacant positions faster. The department is authorized for up to 176 officers, and currently has 167 hired. However, 9-10 officers are also out on various types of family or medical leave.”

    Actual number of cops able to be scheduled any given day is closer to 150 than 167. Actual funded versus “official authorized strength” is 172. Add 2 cops injured recently to the number out on disability. 4-6 female cops out on maternity leave or off the street due to pregnancy.

    Watching the video I come to the conclusion that Michael Meehan is a better liar than leader. His answers on staffing, gangs and the fencing of stolen phones proved this once again. Residents and BPD officers have a common threat, city leadership has no concern for our safety. The reduced staffing levels translates to an increase in violent crime, they have passed the tipping point.

  • bgal4

    My email to city leaders this morning.

    The mid-year crime report once again failed to provide actionable data analysis, address crime victims concerns, or build trust that the city approaches the crime problem realistically not politically. When reviewing the video of the presentation two errors stand out specifically.

    @27.30 Regarding robberies. Anderson mentions a news story about a bay area bust of a fencing operation asking the Chief if they have located any local fencing operations.

    Meehan fails to mention the BPD/ ABC coordinated enforcement last spring resulting in an arrest of the clerk at M&H Liquors for fencing stolen phones. Residents recognized the connection to the high rates of pedestrian robberies and the criminal activity at M&H Liquors right across the street from a major transit hub and asked the city to review the use permit of M&H. Anderson’s aide and code enforcement officer Daniels responded in an email stating NO action would be taken on M&H Liquors, no explanation was provided by the city manager office or police dept. Complaints were sent to supervisors.

    Maybe this local news story about the city’s press release of the arrest will jar memories:

    Another injustice took place during the discussion on gang activity including the recent homicides. Once again the council was silent in response to the chief’s vague, meaningless
    response to the Linda Maio’s question about identifying gang members and activity. If the city of Berkeley is truly so uninformed about how to develop an effective ant-gang initiative including gang database why not utilize the FREE resources offered by the federal and state government
    agencies specifically designed for such functions. Or you could just start talking with moms, the moms from south and west Berkeley who have been begging for years for the city/schools to seriously address the influence of gangs on their children.

  • gimpytroll

    Berkeley is getting policing tips from Mayor Jean Quan.

  • The ‘Other’ Chris

    “A lot of these things we don’t have any control over,” said Mayor Tom Bates

    Here are some things you DO have control over:

    + Installing additional street lights throughout the city – end the moratorium
    + Authorizing more than 176 officers
    + Getting more officers on bike patrols – west and south berkeley during the afternoons, southside afternoon/evening
    + Create and enforce laws for corner stores that sell alcohol – video system with online pd access, proper upkeep of property, clear line of sight in and out of store
    + Create a practical no loitering law. Something enforceable for the people who choose to hang out and drink/smoke/sell drugs on our street corners, but kind enough to not be misused on
    homeless, etc.

  • bgal4

    Recently in Berkeley a homeless man was robbed and beat by group of the usual suspects. He did not have a shining I-thing, just a backpack full of cloths, which they stole because they could. Being a leader in crime suppression activity in south Berkeley over many years I had access to numerous cops. I have been told several times that the offenders, particularly those who rove in groups robbing folks, are motivated by thrills and power as much as the booby prizes they collect. OPD crime analysts have also told me the same thing, based on information collected post arrests during interviews. Our neighborhood leaders group met with the DA about 7 years ago, he said the same thing.

    We are a street wise family and don’t own cell phones, yet because of where we live we have been targets of thuggery.

  • guest

    The chief’s answer about gangs did not seem vague to me. He pointed out that the concept of “gang membership” was itself a bit too vague and therefore of limited use for analyzing Berkeley crime. He said that a network analysis based on intelligence about relationships between individuals was proving useful. That kind of network analysis seems to be the direction modern anti-gang law enforcement is taking around the country and nationally. For example:

    I’m not sure what to make of the complaint about phone fencing. The individual caught buying stolen phones was staked out and arrested. ABC helped with the investigation and arrest. If M&H could be implicated it’s hard to imagine how the combination of those two agencies could overlook it.

    The chief pointed out that the major markets for stolen phones are often online and often outside of BPD jurisdiction. That’s consistent with many online complaints about buying stolen phones on EBay and with news reports about large overseas markets for stolen goods.

    The person that was arrested for buying phones had 20 or fewer stolen phones. (Reports said that 20 were seized and that some of them appeared to be stolen.) A multi-agency stake-out and bust must have been expensive for such a small fish.

  • EBGuy

    The crime map again highlights why the the northside coops and housing belong in a northside district as in the original BSDC plan. Instead, some of the council members would like to disenfranchise Southside students who experience the direct effects of these crimes by kicking them out of the ‘student district’ as advocates of the United Student District Amendment would like to see happen.

  • bgal4

    I learn from the experts. My husband built SF a custom gang database and did analysis of gang crime several years ago, nothing mysterious or complicated about it. I know how easy it is to collect, analysis and utilize gang data for prevention and suppression purposes.

    On M&H code enforcement, again, I speak from years of personal experience here in Berkeley. Anderson and others on the fifth floor CHOSE to protect the criminals and deny citizens a safer community. I know plenty about this particular case because I spoke with BART asst chief, ABC enforcement agent and BPD brass. It was a political choice.

  • southberkeleyres

    Didn’t the chief’s son get his i-phone stolen from his locker at Berkeley High school, which prompted a response by several police officerts to go to the location where it was tracked to? Too bad the victims of cell phone robberies in South Berkeley do not have an advocate. Often these are not just robberies, but vicious beatings and muggings, leaving emotional scarring for a lifetime. Where is the outrage and response to M and H Liquor store’s employee buying stolen cell phones on more than one occasion? Shameful.

  • guest

    What is up with the perpetual presence of west side gang tags on the gray apt 2201 Bonar at the corner of Allston. Does the paint truck need to be scheduled daily there? Is the landlord fulfilling their responsibility to clean up the graffiti promptly? You can see it in real life, or on streetview.

  • JuiceJeasel

    Let’s send an uplifting prayer to those who have been affected by crime in our wonderful city.

  • emraguso

    Looks like it’s claimed for West Side Boys — the XIV shows the affiliation with the Norteños… Maybe the goons are a clique of the gang? That building looks like it’s seen better days… has anyone tried to address it with the landlord?

  • emraguso

    …. maybe we need to do a story on gang graffiti if it’s the only concrete sign of what’s happening…

  • Guest

    How pathetic that the local news team has to “help out” the Keystone Cops at BPD.

  • bgal4

    Your last two recommendations were addressed in the BAPAC alcohol sales regulations, a set of best practices in environmental prevention. Bates, Maio, Capitelli and Wozniak were selected as the council subcommittee to work with BAPAC on implementing the program, they killed it instead. We were lied to, after years of coalitions meetings with government agencies and community groups to draft proper legislation and programming.

  • guest

    It may be public housing. I don’t know for sure ….

  • guest 1

    He normally has to pay himself to get the building painted. Typically, he paints over it in 3-4 days.

  • bgal4

    Personally I pity any property owner (except those involved in criminal activity) whose block or corner has been claimed by a street or organized gang. WSB has been tagging BYA just across the street for years. The mural was a graffiti control effort.

  • Biker 94703

    Why do you hate affordable housing?

  • Mark L

    That’s an amazing, intense accusation.

  • Truth Sayer

    Pray tell, where did Guest say anything that suggested that he/she “hate affordable housing?” Because I didn’t read anything except that he commented against graffti on a building. Should we ignore the degradation of public housing in our community, or speak out against it as Guest did?

  • Rebecca Greco

    I am a neighbor near Strawberry Creek Park and would certainly appreciate this story. The apartments on Bonar Street are not public housing; they are privately owned. The Berkeley Youth Alternatives (BYA) building and mural are routinely tagged; “187,” the CA code for murder (generally seen as a threat hen posted visibly) is currently sprayed on the side of the BYA building; this recent round of graffiti has been up for weeks in full view of a well-used playground and on the side of a youth violence prevention organization. Tables in the park are routinely repainted by a neighbor who keeps a supply of paint in order to maintain the park. While the park’s appearance is one thing, the violence is of course the more serious issue. Sure wish there was some sign that the city cared. I am guessing that recurring dice games and graffiti would not be tolerated in playgrounds in the hills.

  • bgal4

    Those in position to decide know it is true.

  • guest

    I have more sympathy for whoever lives in the apartments. You know they probably hear and smell the spray paint. I do not think that is right. Maybe adding a fence is required.

  • guest

    Instead of dealing with the liquor stores, they force all waitstaff in the city to take 6 hour classes to be certified to serve alcohol.
    This requirement is unique in our state.