Berkeley asks public for help to create new police beats

The Berkeley Police Department has used the same beat map since 1993, and the city is looking into how to adjust it. (Click to view larger.) Image: Berkeley Police

The Berkeley Police Department has used the same beat map since 1993, and is making changes. (Click to view larger.) Image: Berkeley Police

The Berkeley Police Department is asking the public for input as it analyzes its current staffing resources and reconsiders how it deploys officers around the city.

This week, the city posted a survey online to collect feedback about what kind of services community members want, and what their priorities are.

The main question is not whether the city should hire more officers. But, rather, the city wants to know: Would community members prefer a larger beat that’s always staffed, or a smaller beat that sometimes has no assigned officer? That approach is, perhaps, understandable given the city’s current budget situation, and the fact that even a new officer hired on to the department makes over $100,000 a year once all is said and done.

The city has hired Mountain View-based Matrix Consulting Group to help oversee the public process and create a strategy for police staffing going forward.

City Manager Christine Daniel sent a memo to the Berkeley City Council this week to explain the “beat realignment” process and share some of the history that has brought the city to this point.

The city has used its current patrol beat configuration since 1993. The idea behind the map is that each beat has one officer assigned to it per shift, and that the workload across beats is relatively even. So busier parts of town were chopped into smaller beats, and neighborhoods with fewer calls for service — among other criteria — were designed to be larger.

When the beat map was created it was based “primarily on crime trends, calls for service, crime statistics, and staffing levels,” according to Daniels’ memo. Those factors have changed in the past two decades, while the beat map has remained the same.

Now, with police staffing levels down significantly over the past two decades, the department is taking a hard look at how it allocates its limited resources. During the 1990s, the department had approximately 207 sworn positions. It currently has approximately 167. Subtract from that an estimated 10-12 officers who may be out with injuries at any given time.

Under current staffing levels, numerous beats are regularly left “open” because there simply aren’t enough bodies per shift to go around. That doesn’t mean that officers don’t respond to those areas if trouble arises, but it may mean slower response times or less proactive enforcement as resources are concentrated elsewhere.

Officers say current staffing levels are leading to open beats — often in the hills, because calls for service are so much lower there — on a much more regular basis than ever before.

The Berkeley Police Department wants to hear from the community as it reorganizes resources going forward.

The Berkeley Police Department wants to hear from the community as it reorganizes resources. Click the image above to take the survey.

Behind the scenes, the city has been discussing the issue of beat realignment since at least late 2012. This week marks the city’s first explanation of what that process will entail, and how the public can weigh in.

According to the city manager’s March 25 memo, “Matrix will analyze population, geography, patrol deployment, staffing levels, officer workload, calls for service, proactive patrol time, response times, crime data, industry standards and best practices and the need for flexible units to respond to identified crime trends, as well as the costs associated with service delivery. Additionally, Matrix will assess community perceptions and priorities through the use of surveys and community meetings.”

Recommended changes to the beat map will take various factors into account: the even distribution of workload, boundaries that reflect “efficient routes of travel,” and the minimization of both natural barriers and neighborhood divisions.

Proposed changes will come before the Berkeley City Council for review and discussion later this year.

The department is asking anyone who lives or works in Berkeley, and also visitors to the city, to fill out a brief survey to share their thoughts and ideas. The deadline for responses is April 11.

According to a brief introduction that precedes the survey, “the study is designed to ensure the best allocation of existing patrol resources rather than add new staff.”

The introduction also promises anonymity for participants, adding, “there are no identifiers.”

Anyone who has questions about the survey can call Matrix project manager Richard Brady at 650-858-0507, or email him at (According to his bio on the Matrix website, Brady is also the company’s president, and has completed more than “300 organizational and staffing studies of every local government service” during his 30 years of experience.)

Council members have each been asked to set up a community meeting for their district, where both Matrix and Berkeley Police staff will present information about the beat analysis and seek community input.

Daniel said in the memo that the results of the process will be presented at a council meeting before the fiscal year ends June 30.

[Editor’s Note: The original headline of this story was updated to better reflect the unfolding beat realignment process.]

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  • guest

    BPD often has too many officers hanging around crime scenes talking to each other after incidents have ended. When an incident is over more officers should promptly get back to patrolling the rest of the city.

  • Doc

    Life in Berkeley is only possible because we have a good police department. New officers more than pay for themselves in tragedies avoided. Add more police. Its easily the most important thing city government does.

  • guest

    Let’s be clear, many police make over 300,000 dollars a year “when all is said and done” (note this 2012):

  • bgal4

    During the Butler time as chief authorized strength was 220, the number dropped towards the end of 1990s.

    The chief of police contracted for a outside study of policing staffing levels in 2011, why is this document not available for public consumption.

    not to sound like a broken record, but now more than ever, the city needs to institute and support beat-based data driven problem solving councils in which city staff, residents and police can resolve local priority issues.

    hard to understand why Berkeley residents pay so much and accept the “manage the community perceptions” public safety standard.

  • a_different_guest

    “Officers say current staffing levels are leading to open beats — often
    in the hills, because calls for service are so much lower there
    — on a
    much more regular basis than ever before.”

    Perhaps the calls for service are lower in the hills because many hills residents just don’t bother calling in every time our cars get rifled through and stuff stolen out of them in the night. It would be really nice if this problem got fixed, something BPD is fully capable of doing.

    This statement also has the unfortunate consequence of suggesting that lower calls for service is not the result of police presence, which sorta makes the survey seem like nonsense.

  • Guest

    Hill Dwellers getting thin end of the wedge as usual. Time to secede from the city and have nice Piedmont style city of North Berkeley. I think we would have enough money to have our own pool as well and plenty of police protection, good roads, schools and trimmed trees.

  • guest

    Come on, we all know that there are fewer calls in the hills because the people who live in the hills are generally wealthy enough that they don’t commit violent crimes and because the hills are not very accessible to those who are less wealthy.

    There are lots of members of the Nortenos living in west Berkeley and lots of homeless people wandering around central Berkeley, and both cause lots of police calls. How many members of the Nortenos live in the hills? And how many homeless people wander there?

  • emraguso

    We requested the document March 13 — supposedly it’s being prepared.

  • Gustav

    Add more police, at lower wages and lower benefits.

    Berkeley pays far more than any of our neighbors for our cops, and is a much safer city to work in. We could lower our wages/benefits package quite a bit and still attract quality candidates.

  • Flatland Resident

    >Perhaps the calls for service are lower in the hills because many hills
    residents just don’t bother calling in every time our cars get rifled
    through and stuff stolen out of them in the night.

    Flatlanders don’t call the cops about that stuff either. Most of us are more concerned about thugs shooting semi-automatic weapons at apartment buildings and murders on our corners.

  • Hilly Hallie

    Or we could just move to Piedmont…

  • EBGuy

    Maybe this is beside the point, but I’d like to remind everyone there is a system for online reporting of these “non emergency” matters.

  • Completely_Serious

    “a new officer hired on to the department makes over $100,000 a year once all is said and done.”

    So Mustache Man’s illegally spiked pension would pay for 2-3 officers? Thanks, Bates. Thanks alot.

  • Guessed

    Time to secede from the city and have nice Piedmont style city of North Berkeley.

    Are you talking about Kensington?

  • sam g

    ALL peace officers in CA get similar FANTASTIC pension benefits due to: the voters! Those stupid voters mess things up all the time!

  • emraguso

    I think it’s worth noting that the survey is only part of the process. There are also the community meetings for each district, and something before the council. It sounds like people will be able to participate in the dialogue there, too. I don’t know how it will ultimately end up but I think the first step may be to get informed and get involved. If there are questions you’d like us to pose to BPD or the city, please share here or via email:

    Make sure you’re on your council member’s list:

    And make sure you’re on your area coordinator’s list:

  • batard

    In general I hold BPD in high regard, and I responded as much on the survey. Under current leadership they do seem have a systemic resistance to transparency though, and that’s worrisome.

    Many thanks to our local 4th estate, please keep up the pressure.

  • Jeff Davis

    Kensington should annex everything above Spruce and Cedar.

  • guest

    Bring back daily call for service listing on the web site. Not the dumbed-down redacted BS on

  • emraguso
  • Shutter

    Seems like every police department has an office for public information and contact but they never — ever — ask probably the most important question of all.. what level of enforcement of what laws do you want us to focus on. This might sound strange but as we the citizens pay their salaries we should have a strong say in *how* they do their jobs. Leaving it up to them to decide which laws they choose to enforce and which laws they routinely ignore is a mistake, often leading to focusing on victimless crime.

    How about a questionnaire with a list of things WE want police to focus on — and why — instead of letting them decide for us? Who cares what beat they work if in general they’re focusing on the wrong stuff in the first place?

  • guest

    Lots of people don’t report crimes because “The cops won’t be able to do anything about MY problem.” Maybe not but it will give the an idea of what is happening in YOUR neighborhood and reason to look for patterns and commit resources.

  • guest

    Call – that is inform the police whenever you know a crime has been committed. They won’t know if you don’t tell them.

  • guest

    Cool, thanks .. I did not realize they had been resumed. Looks like since May..

    Unfortunately less detail than before, used to include a synopsis, persons involved, etc. much like UCPD’s version of same.. ( )

  • Guest

    This survey doesn’t work on the few mobile devices I tried it on. Many people are primarily on mobile devices these days and this seems to be a huge oversight. If the public is expected to have a say on the decision making process this should have been a consideration.

  • emraguso

    I wish they had more detail and also were posted as spreadsheets ; in the midst of a dialogue to see if any improvements are possible.

  • emraguso

    Seemed to work totally fine for me on iPhone 4s. What issue were you having?

  • guest

    I’ve never voted to approve the insane wages and pensions for any of our various public servants in Berkeley or California. Don’t know anyone who has.

  • Guest

    IPad Air

  • guest

    Great if you can make any headway. The frustrating thing that I fear they may overlook is that except where there is a compelling and specific reason to hold it back, this is all public information .. the community paid for it, it’s about the community, it affects the community, it belongs to the community.

    Your efforts appreciated as usual!

  • Amelia

    I certainly don’t mind our tax dollars going to more well paid police officers. We really need more officers on the streets in West and NW Berkeley especially. Having officers that are paid well shows that the citizens respect and need their services (100K is not excessive in the Bay Area either). Of course, they have to be responsive, diligent and exstremely attentive to the new and changing needs of the community.

  • emraguso

    For those who are interested — meetings for districts 2, 5 and 6 are coming this week:

  • brycenesbittt

    The new online crime map is essentially useless: there’s no detail. An assault among teens is shown the same as an attack on an elder. There’s no dollar amount, time of day, or anything else that would help to spot trends and asses severity. Without data like that, how could a citizen really get a handle on the proposals?

  • Mbfarrel

    A friend om mine who was a BP cop said “tell us What you want us to do, and we’ll do it.”
    Being Berkeley most of what the hear is from the PRC, Copwatch and citizens who demand why the police haven’t solved their auto burglary.