Neighbors talk surveillance, robberies, code enforcement at community crime watch meeting

Thefts and burglaries from vehicles from Jan. 29 to Feb. 25. The blue hexagons show unlocked vehicles. Source: BPD

Thefts and burglaries from vehicles from Jan. 29 to Feb. 25. The blue hexagons show unlocked vehicles. Source: BPD

Berkeley residents who participate in community crime prevention efforts met with police this week to share concerns and learn about recent crime trends.

Block captains and members of the Berkeley Safe Neighborhood Committee shared updates on everything from break-ins and vehicle thefts to thoughts about a recent homicide.

Aggressive door knockers, a new approach underway by police to deal with residential alarms, recurring auto burglaries and tips about surveillance cameras were among the issues discussed by neighbors Monday night.

About 20 people attended the meeting, along with Berkeley Police officer Byron White and Berkeley Police Capt. Erik Upson. BART’s police department sent a representative to the session.

Some attendees discussed the issue of how to deal with safety problems in public housing projects, as well as how to work with local landlords to clean up nuisance properties.

One community member described an extensive video surveillance set-up he has at home, which he uses to share information regularly with police. After a variety of questions about the system from those in attendance, Berkeley Safe Neighborhood Committee leader Barbara Allen said that topic could be one to revisit in more depth at a future meeting.

Officer Byron White, the area coordinator in North Berkeley’s Area 1, gave a formal presentation to participants that included everything from recent crime trends to projects underway by the police department and safety tips for neighbors. (See the presentation here.)

White described recent issues that have come up across the city in its four main police areas.

In North Berkeley, Area 1, auto burglaries and vehicle thefts, residential burglaries and a perceived influx of the homeless have been issues of late.

Southside, in Area 2, pedestrian robberies, noise complaints and loud parties, petty theft and auto burglaries have been noted.

Downtown and into South Berkeley, in Area 3, community members have reported pedestrian robberies, commercial burglaries and various quality of life issues related to drug dealing and belligerent behavior.

Over in South and West Berkeley, in Area 4, reported issues have been related to street gang activity, auto burglaries at the marina and on Gilman near the freeway, problematic properties on Sacramento Street and at the Gilman underpass, and gang activity at Strawberry Creek Park, as well other area issues with homelessness.

Capt. Upson, from the Police Department, noted that there has been a recent regional trend of auto burglaries near highway off-ramps, which has been tied to methamphetamine use.

The Police Department is working on an effort to restructure its beat map to better reflect current resources and calls for service across Berkeley. White said Berkeley residents should expect surveys, town hall meetings and more later in the year. The annual crime report from the police chief is expected in March or April, White added.

Officers in attendance said there has been increased collaboration with local probation authorities to deal with the return of repeat offenders into communities following a statewide effort to reduce prison overcrowding and costs.

“It’s a challenge for us,” said White, “not to take anything away from the courts, which are inundated but, given the situation and the realities, to try and focus our resources and our energies on the worst offenders and biggest recidivists.”

White said there’s been a trend this year related to commercial burglaries from restaurant registers. Nine burglaries were reported between Jan. 7 and Feb. 27 from businesses on Shattuck Avenue, University Avenue and nearby. He said business owners would be wise to empty the cash drawer at the end of the day, and leave the drawer open as a signal to would-be burglars. Allen Cain, of the Solano Avenue Association, said merchants on the avenue often leave the empty drawer in plain view of the front door to dissuade thieves.

White said that, so far this year, robberies are down by more than half compared to the same period last year, and down significantly, from an average of eight per week, compared to the end of 2013.

So far this year, robberies have been down significantly from the same period last year. Source: BPD

So far this year, robberies have been down significantly from the same period last year. Click the chart to see White’s presentation. Source: BPD

Upson mentioned a current effort underway in the department to investigate how putting surveillance cameras on problematic liquor stores might improve safety. He said council had directed the police department to look into the matter.

Meeting attendees, including former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, pushed the Police Department to make it easier for residents to see crime statistics for both the city and the university in a combined map and data set, “just to get a better picture of what’s going on.” Added Dean: “We need the numbers…. The total picture gets very fuzzy and blurred for people.”

One meeting attendee, longtime South Berkeley crime and safety activist Laura Menard, said there needs to be more information flowing between residents and the Police Department for real improvements to be made. She said neighborhood groups get less information than in the past from police, and that certain tactics groups used to use, and have been shown to be effective, are no longer supported by the city.

In the past, police would give neighborhood groups easy access to arrest docket reports, books of mugshots, and better alerts when violent offenders would move back into neighborhoods, said Menard. And, with those tools, community members learned how to submit “neighborhood impact letters” to the courts to help affect sentencing outcomes and advocate for stiffer penalties.

“We had all that information flowing between the police and the community,” she said. “We already invented the wheel and the city dismantled it. But that’s how problem solving actually works at the community level.”

White said he understood the frustration, and asked everyone in attendance to share suggestions about what they’d like to see from police, and what their neighborhood problems are. He said police are listening, and want to hear directly from the community. Officers are always available to meet with resident or business groups about issues of concern, he added.

The Berkeley Safe Neighborhood Committee’s largest meeting of the year, the annual block captains meeting, is coming up April 7. The session is for block captains only, but community members who are interested to participate in BSNC can email Barbara Allen for information. Have other questions about crime in your neighborhood? Find local police contacts here.

Berkeley residents, police collaborate on safety (04.18.13)
Police newsletter: Thieves sought, burglars caught (03.13.13)

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  • djoelt1

    Can someone provide a description of how “aggressive door knockers” ply their trade?

  • Heather_W_62

    Interesting that Upson says there’s an increase in meth in my general area. I’ve been here for 20 years, and for the first time found a baggie of meth in front of my house. Some many years ago it was common to see empty crack baggies, but once the neighborhood cleaned up (late ’90’s), I wasn’t seeing this anymore. Also, seeing an increase in empty airline booze bottles (from Bing’s Liquors, no doubt) around Berkeley Adult School and in my neighbors bushes.

  • John Freeman

    I wonder when camover folks will take an interest in Berkeley.

  • bgal4

    One bits of news we heard at the meeting is the council has directed the police dept encourage problematic liquor stores install surveillance cameras. Is this a voluntary request or an enforceable condition of the use permit? The crime maps presented at the meeting showed in area 3 the intersection behind Sanford Liquors as a hotspot for violent crime. When will Sanford, Bings and other problematic liquors be regulated by the city for the poor management practices resulting in crime.

  • bgal4

    Emily was describing canvassers without legitimate purposes who are casing houses. We heard residents describe declining the canvassers sales at the door only to find that person did not leave the property but went around to the back yard and when confronted he claimed he was looking for the other door.

  • bgal4

    Cities interested in decreasing the number of street inebriates prohibit corner liquor stores from selling the affordable single use airplane bottles of hard liquor.

  • Russell Bates

    In North Berkeley, Area 1, auto burglaries and vehicle thefts, residential burglaries and a perceived influx of the homeless have been issues of late.(so along with burglaries and vehicle thefts it sounds like the squeamish in the northside see “..perceived influx of the homeless..”as a crime?yuppies yapping at the full moon sounds like to me.

  • Iceland_1622

    Many crimes are ‘never’ reported to the local PD for a wide variety of reasons. On the North side of town here one of my neighbors, former US Air-force retired, was out walking with his wife late one night and was surrounded by four black juveniles. He had his combat knife with him and was finally able to get them to back off, but only after they *demanded* to see it. I have not seen him out walking since I am sorry to say.

    Last night while driving home, I passed a late model car on Vine Street that had just had it’s drivers side window smashed out and there was glass everywhere. All too common here, along with vehicle thefts and all sorts of street zombies and street trash walking the neighborhood 24/7.

    This will help: “Oakland neighbors increasingly use surveillance for security”

  • Drone Henley

    Also “fortified” wines like Night Train and Thunderbird as well as large containers of malt liquor.

  • Letsgetthemanassaultvehicle

    I have a great idea for how to prevent some of this petty crime, let’s increase the minimum wage and make it illegal for low skilled workers to find productive uses for their time, finally giving them the dignity they deserve. Then we can subsidize these folks just enough so they can survive without any initiative of their own, and so they can afford Berkeley’s artificially low rents because of our ridiculous rent control policies, so they’re guaranteed a place to call home in our communities. Lets also give them food stamps they can either trade for cash to buy booze and drugs and then pay for the healthcare they need because of their horrible nutrition choices. If we manage all these inputs just right maybe we will all remain scared enough that we’ll never question the fact that the pay of 28 of our top 50 city employees are police officers and one of them is the head of the rent board and noe are teachers.

    The above list is an embarrassment to our city. My kids go to Washington elementary and honestly the most frightened I ever am in this city is when the division of post crime speeds past our school and the high school down MLK at 8 in the morning when their are hundreds of kids outside.

  • Heather_W_62

    True, bgal, and the owner of Bing’s says he won’t stop selling them because he makes a lot of money selling them. He’s also not complied with BPD’s “request” to clear the windows so there’s a clear view for police, nor has he replaced long burned out bulbs in the light fixtures, nor has he put in a Hi-resolution camera outside. Let’s not forget someone was murdered at Bing’s not too long ago.

  • guest

    Jesus! Our police get paid a lot!

  • Area One-ian

    Nope, just folks who don’t want a panhandler deliberately blocking them on the sidewalk and making demands every time they attempt to go for a walk or run errands in their own neighborhood.

    But have a blessed day, anyway.

  • Duhhhhhhhh

    There are no jobs for these young people to get because their skills don’t deliver enough value to employers to make them profitably employable at the current minimum wage. Meanwhile we are talking about increasing it, which unless you are blind will exacerbate all these problems. I’m typing this on a device made by someone that makes quite a bit less than our minimum wage, just like all of you are reading this from. You can’t have things both ways. We are benefiting from free labor market policies abroad while criminalizing free market labor policies at home. Know who benefits? The prison industrial complex and our police state.

  • berkeleyparent

    (this reply is to a post that is under review)

    >street zombies

    >hood rats

    > feral teen trash

    Just starting there, without going any futher: I am very, very offended by your tone.

    How DARE you call our Berkeley kids “trash”?

    How DARE you call them “rats”?

    This is the type of labeling attitude that is so alienating to the teen-age community.

    They are younger, more energetic and louder. Yes. That is the place they hold in the community. Unless we plan on dying out as a species, we will always have adolescents in our community. Let’s embrace them and guide them lovingly.

    Or you could hate them, and they will hate you.

    Just don’t forget that at the end of the day, they’ll be staffing your nursing home.

    “…and these children that you spit on,
    as they try to change their worlds are
    immune to your consultations. They’re
    quite aware of what they’re going through…
    – David Bowie”

  • bgal4

    Bowie was not referencing Droogs.

  • guest

    So I guess we can safely assume that you completely missed the point of “A Clockwork Orange”.
    (Or maybe you only saw the movie?)

  • bgal4

    no, better to not assume anything especially when asserting the collective we. why not speak for yourself and on topic.

  • guest

    An overly repressive, emotionally disconnected society that expects terribly violent behavior from its young people will get it.

    Once Alex develops (artificially) a sense of empathy, he abandons, and becomes bored by, violence and even begins to desire to start a family. (again, not in the movie)

    Bowie was definitely including “droogs” as you put it: they too are trying to figure out what’s going on: often acting out the violence that they see and feel around them.

    We are a very sanitized society: we don’t SEE the violence inherent in our system, but it is really, really there. Just look at the countries around the world suffering so that we can live our suburban lifestyles.

  • bgal4

    Of course I read the book and am familiar with the exclusion of the final chapter based on a belief that American audiences would not find redemption of people capable of “ultra-violence” credible. Your explanation does not challenge the point of my comment which is to hell with PC police censoring or damning anyone who uses terminology they find offensive such:
    Feral Teen, Hood rats, Droogs and Street Zombies

    btw I welcome individual redemption of any of “our” youth who aspire to be active members of these sub-cultures.

  • guest

    So this:

    >Bowie was not referencing Droogs.

    is supposed to mean this:

    >to hell with PC police censoring or damning anyone who uses terminology they find offensive


    I don’t think so: I think you were expressing a personal opinion that Bowie was not referring to young people who are violent.

    I disagree with that opinion.

  • John Freeman

    American audiences would not find redemption of people capable of “ultra-violence” credible.

    How ironic. Alex is “redeemed” into someone who is inclined to repeat the cycle, not into someone who has achieved any kind of transcendent virtue. If it is true that American editors preferred a “darker” ending, they achieved the opposite.

    “My son, my son. When I had my son I would explain all that to him when he was starry enough to like understand. But then I knew he would not understand or would not want to understand at all and would do all the veshches I had done, yes perhaps even killing some poor starry forella surrounded with mewing kots and koshkas, and I would not be able to really stop him. And nor would he be able to stop his own son, brothers. And so it would itty on to like the end of the world, round and round and round, like some bolshy gigantic like chelloveck, like old Bog Himself (by courtesy of Korova Milkbar) turning and turning and turning a vonny grahzny orange in his gigantic rookers.”

  • Local

    There is no “teen age community,” any more than there is a “forty-something community.” Those are simply age groups, and within them you can find every behavior under the sun, including the hardened criminal behavior Iceland_1622 so accurately describes.

    Do you really think that smashing car windows, or threatening solitary,
    vulnerable-appearing pedestrians with bodily harm, is just something
    kids do because they’re “younger, more energetic and louder” than adults? What an insult to all the Berkeley teenagers who do nothing of the sort, because they have better values and better uses for their time.

    Before either Berkeley’s juvenile delinquents OR the young but mostly over-18, mostly white legal adults currently sitting on Shattuck Ave. with their pit bulls and their “spare change for pot” signs end up staffing anyone’s nursing home, they’re going to have to clean up their records and in some cases find a fixed address. They’re also going to have to live another 30-40 years at least before they end up staffing the nursing homes of many Berkeleyside readers, and at the rate most of them seem to be self-destructing, I wouldn’t count on that happening.

    You want to help these people? Stop romanticizing them, and stop enabling them by pretending that their anti-social and criminal behavior is the same thing as youthful high spirits. You make it sound as if destroying property and mobbing random strangers is the same thing as staying out too late at the sock-hop.

  • guest

    Ah, a Monty Python reference! And here I mistook your tone for serious.

  • guest

    Haha, yes, but I was still serious, though.

  • guest

    I think Alex is depressed by the idea that his son might do all the “vesches” that he had done.

    And in a sense, the world done just spin round that way… we do our best, but we have no guarantees.

  • bgal4

    I disagree, having attended many Bowie concerts during that era our youth rebellion was about peace and freedom of expression not making lame excuses for sociopaths and violence.

  • berkeleyparent

    Iceland was describing people by how they looked and making assumptions based on their appearance.
    If Iceland had described hoodlums *in the midst of commiting a crime* I would have had no problem with the labels. However, the commenter was derogatorily describing young people walking by in the neighborhood/ community.

  • John Freeman

    I think Alex is depressed by the idea that his son might do all the “vesches” that he had done.

    Not might but would. It is ultra-fatalistic “like some great big old guy, like God Himself (by courtesy of the local droog hangout bar) turning and turning a big dirty orange in his big hands” — the titular Clockwork Orange.

    The only “might” Alex offers is the question of whether his son’s ultra-violence would wind up killing someone.

    There is no “we do our best” to Alex’s turn: He remains a sensual, hedonistic, narcissistic thrill-seeker as the next paragraph shows:

    But first of all, brothers, there was this veshch of finding some devotchka or other who would be a mother to this son. I would have to start on that tomorrow, I kept thinking. That was something like new to do. That was something I would have to get started on, a new like chapter beginning.

    And in the last paragraph of the book he asks his brothers to remember the fine creature that little Alex ultra-violence was. He says of everyone except his old ultra-violent buddies that they can kiss his butt.

    Alex is, in the end, “redeemed” only in the laughably self-contradictory assessment of the dystopian state in which he lives:

    This twist at the end of the book is startlingly apropos to the discussion about Berkeley: It sews up the full circle of a state apparatus and dominant culture that reliably evokes ultra-violence from its youth and then, under the guise of a false promise to eradicate that ultra-violence, reproduces the state apparatus, dominant culture, and the violence itself to repeat and even worsen the cycle of the next generation.

  • guest

    Well, all the literary analysis has been fun, but I’m realizing I’d like to go back and read this book!
    i certainly saw “reformed” Alex as a more sympathetic character myself.

    However this huge digression came from a poster referring to violent local teens as “droogs”, whereas I’m not so sure that the glorying in gratuitous violence characteristic of “droogs” (or football fans) is quite the same as the opportunistic cell phone stealing that goes on around here.

  • bgal4

    Seems some Berkeley teens know how to apply a literary reference to their experiences.

    Stephen said they’d gone just a few paces from Andrew’s house when they
    ran into a group of kids he recognized from his South Berkeley
    neighborhood. He privately calls them “the Droogs,” in honor of the
    hostile teenage gang from Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.

  • John Freeman

    i certainly saw “reformed” Alex as a more sympathetic character myself.

    If you think Alex becomes redeemed then I guess you wind up having to believe the psychological torture he undergoes is virtuous, as is the prison from which he’s plucked, as is his former-friend-now-cop who gets gratuitously violent upon him, as is the crime victim who imprisons and tortures him…..

    There is not a segment of society in that book that isn’t engaged in gratuitous violence upon the others except perhaps the old bum under the bridge.

    Far from a digression I think it’s an important concept for understanding street crime in Berkeley and our collective responses to it.

  • Expert in Evertying?

    Glad to see you know more about the content of the book than the author.

    So much complaining and no solutions. Occupy, anyone?

  • guest

    That’s too bad. If serious, the comment is a lot less intelligent.

  • guest

    OK: went back & read, and I still feel like I am correct: Alex was NOT reformed by what was done to him: he grew up.

    He got bored with violence and wanted to do something creative and positive: inspired by a former buddy he runs into who has “gone straight” and settled down with a job and a wife.

    Yes, he feels depressed about the idea that his starry son will probably be crazy and f***ed up for a while like he was, but that is just his 18 year old’s vision of the future. He certainly intends to try to teach his son to be healthy and creative.

  • John Freeman

    As they say in English Departments Everywhere(tm) you’re free to read it any way you do but some readings make more complete sense of the book than others. You’ve said something critical, yourself:

    He got bored with violence

    So he is not redeemed. He is not repentant (he fondly remembers violent little Alex). He has not gained insight that tells him violence is bad and its suppression good.

    The big change in Alex is that in earlier chapters he is both subject to and perpetrator of a lot of seemingly arbitrary violence. In the end he comes to see the whole of this as a kind inescapable cycle, forever recurring, like a big dirty orange God endlessly turns over in his oversized hands. Young people, he describes, are like cheap clockwork toys: you wind them up, set them down, and they just do all those things and run into all those problems like Alex himself.

    If anything, his moral journey is the opposite of redemption. In the beginning he believes in a Virtue he can almost grasp and, in the end, he has become amoral. Alex’s journey is to become literally demoralized.

    What confuses a lot of readers, I think, is that though Alex achieves a perfect hedonistic amorality in the end, he is also pacified and resigned to the will of the violent state.

    Here is Burgess on that:

    What the writer was trying to say was that it is better to be bad of one’s free will than to be good through scientific brainwashing. B. F. Skinner’s book “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” came out at the very time that “A Clockwork Orange” first appeared on the screen, ready to demonstrate the advantages of what we may call beneficent brainwashing. Given the right positive inducements, Skinner argues, we shall all become better citizens, submissive to a state that has the good of the community at heart. That the writer considers any kind of conditioning wrong must be accounted, he supposes, to the strength of Catholic tradition in which he was reared. The maintenance of a complex society depends increasingly on routine work, work with no zest or creativity. One of the slogans of George Orwell’s superstate in “1984” is “Freedom is slavery.” This can be taken to mean that the burden of making one’s own choices is, for many people, intolerable. Perhaps there is something to be said for conformity in social life when our working lives have so little room for rugged individualism. But when patterns of conformity are imposed by the state, then one has a right to be frightened. It is significant that the nightmare books of our age have not been about new Draculas and Frankensteins but about what may be termed dystopias—inverted utopias, in which an imagined megalithic government brings human life to an exquisite pitch of misery. Mentions Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” It would seem that enforced conditioning of the mind, however good the social intention, has to be evil.

    Alex came up in one of those inverted utopias and in the end he doesn’t seek to abolish it, just to be a top dog.

  • guest

    >in the end he doesn’t seek to abolish it, just to be a top dog.

    He doesn’t seek to be a top dog in the end, however: he relinquishes top-dog status in favor of domesticity.

    This is why I believe that he is rather MORE fully “reformed”, or whatever you want to call it, because he ends the cycle in himself. By not seeking to abolish anything, or punish anyone, but simply to quietly resign and become productive/ creative, he shows the triumph of peace and order over violence and chaos.

    He WANTS a quiet peaceful fireside with a sweet wife and a gurgling baby in the other room. And he wants to do whatever is required to achieve and maintain that.

    His fond rememberance of little Alex is what it is (nostalgia?)… that WAS his childhood, after all, and was in response to the greater dystopic society that he grew up in.