Robberies rise, but serious crime down overall in 2013

Serious crime reports in Berkeley continue to show a downward trend for the most part. Click the graph to see the full report. Image: Berkeley Police

Serious crime in Berkeley continues to show a downward trend for the most part. Click the graph to see the full report. Image: Berkeley Police

Pedestrian robberies, home burglaries, aggravated assaults and vehicle thefts rose in 2013 over the prior year, though the overall number of serious crimes fell, according to new data from the Berkeley Police Department that will be reported to the Berkeley City Council later this month.

Most of the increases were small, with the exception of robbery reports, which rose from 334 in 2012 to 409 in 2013. Auto thefts rose from 639 to 668.

A significant drop in larceny reports, from 4,102 to 3,664, brought the number of overall serious crime reports down from 6,209 in 2012 to 5,890 last year.

At the beginning of 2013, the Berkeley Police Department set a crime reduction goal of “zero growth” in serious crime rates.

“This goal was set in light of the increase seen in Berkeley and in the region in 2012, and reflected the Department’s focus, on reducing crime in Berkeley in 2013,” according to the report prepared by Police Chief Michael Meehan for the March 25 council meeting.

An increase in robberies in 2013 drove the number of overall violent crimes up. Click the graph to see the full report. Image: Berkeley Police

An increase in robberies in 2013 drove the number of overall violent crimes up. Click the graph to see the full report. Image: Berkeley Police

Other report highlights

Robberies increased 22.5% from the prior year, though they “trended downward” in the later part of the year. Smartphone robberies from pedestrians walking alone at night still make up the largest number of Berkeley robberies. Pedestrian robberies increased almost 30%, while commercial robberies decreased by 25%.

Aggravated assault reports grew 13% in 2013, with 122 reports, compared to 108 the prior year. Aggravated assaults frequently involved someone who is known to the victim.

Burglary reports increased 9.4% over the prior year. That increase was tied to home burglaries, while commercial burglary reports remained flat.

Auto theft reports increased 5% in 2013. Approximately 90% of the vehicles that were reported stolen in 2013 have been recovered locally or in other jurisdictions.

Larceny reports — which include auto burglary, petty theft, and grand theft — declined 10.7% in
2013. Auto burglaries dropped by 19.1%, with 287 fewer cases. Grand thefts declined
27.3%, with 173 fewer cases, and petty theft reports remained essentially flat.

There were four homicides in 2013, compared to five the year before. Prosecution is underway in all four of the 2013 murders.

Reported rapes dropped 25.6% in 2013, with 29 reports as compared to 39 in 2012. Nearly all the incidents involved an acquaintance.

A five-year look at the numbers. Click the graph for more information. Image: Berkeley Police

A five-year look at the numbers. Click the graph for more information. Image: Berkeley Police

The annual crime report also describes enforcement related to alcohol and smoking in Berkeley. Enforcement, primarily by bicycle officers working on Telegraph Avenue and downtown, resulted in 362 smoking-related tickets. Around Telegraph Avenue, police issued citations or made arrests for 138 alcohol-related offenses. Most of these incidents were either “open container” or “drunk in public” offenses.

Among the efforts Meehan credits with keeping crime reports down include the deployment of robbery suppression teams in areas likely to see those crimes, the department’s community newsletter, bike patrols downtown and on Telegraph, a collaboration with the university about rape awareness, a collaboration with business owners in areas experiencing burglaries, and increased efforts related to forensic analysis and ballistic information.

A more detailed report will be provided to council members March 25 during a special session at 5:30 p.m.

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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  • bgal4
  • jjohannson

    Meanwhile, our (superb) Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner is championing the effort in our state assembly. Let her know you support her effort.

    Skinner home page —

    Kill switch article —

  • bgal4

    just curious, what makes Skinner superb?

    I think the law should be federal.

  • John Freeman

    Or… and just thinking out loud here … Instead of creating a rube goldberg extension of big brother to compensate for class tensions and lack of street smarts we could wait a small number of years until smartphones already in the pipeline, costing a few 10s of dollars, begin to arrive on the market. That might actually achieve a reduced incentive to steal the things, in a similar time frame or less, but without creating a new point of vulnerability to be abused by bad acting governments and other criminals.


    So your “solution” is to ignore the problem, and ignore the solution (which has worked just fine in Australia) because of conspiracy theories.


  • guest

    I think we all knew street crime would go up when they shut down the dispensaries.

  • Mosby

    Crime indoors isn’t all that much different than crime outdoors, it’s just easier to ignore.

  • John Freeman

    Oh, sure, let’s talk about cell-phone theft and robbery in Australia because the chief of SFPD has been, shall we say, less than frank in the statistic he is so casually tossing around.

    The famous “25% reduction” figure from Australia is not a 25% reduction in cell phone robberies. In fact, cell phones remain a popular target for criminals in Australia. [Source: Attorney General & Justice, New South Wales Australia]

    The 25% figure describes a net reduction in cell-phone lost-or-stolen deactivations between 2004 and 2011. Not across the board, mind you! The reduction is for a particular class of cell-phones comprising less than 1% of the cell phone market in Australia during the period of measurement. [Source: Australia Mobile Telephone Association]

    In other words, “kill switch” use for a tiny class of phones dropped 25% between 2004 and 2011 — that’s all. One of the biggest impacts of the “kill switch” was to curtail warehouse and retail store thefts — not exactly the violent crime reduction goal we have here.

    Cell phone theft in Australia peaked, by the way, four years before the kill switch law went into effect. In recent years the rate has held steady and significant.

  • Woolsey

    Zero growth in crime is their goal? Sad. How about reducing violent crime to the average in California or even reducing property crime to 50% higher than the California average. Of course, the police would need some support from the Alameda Co DA and our city leaders.

  • Chris

    They would also need to be adequately staffed…

  • guest

    Stressed out people are more criminal…

  • rube510

    Crimes like robberies are only gonna get worse as long as berkeley is an extreme wealth gap city like it already is. Bring the middle class back to berkeley lower the rents .