Serious Berkeley crime skyrockets in first half of 2015

The 2015 mid-year crime report: numbers are up almost across the board. Image: Berkeley Police Department
The 2015 mid-year crime report: other than homicides, numbers are up across the board. Source: BPD

Berkeley police are reporting significant increases in serious crimes including robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries during the first half of 2015, compared to statistics from 2014.

Police officials are set to present the annual mid-year crime report to the Berkeley City Council at a special session Tuesday beginning at 5:30 p.m.

“2015 has been a challenging year for law enforcement,” police wrote in the report for council. Overall, serious crime reports increased 23% from the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period this year. The numbers do not take into account population density.

According to police, robberies increased 53%, from 108 in the first half of 2014 to 165 this year. (The numbers are still lower, however, than the 221 robberies reported in the first half of 2013, police note in the report.) Police said, this year, pedestrian robberies increased 52%, a trend that appears to have begun in late 2014 as the numbers started to push up.


Berkeleyside reported the apparent increase in robberies in mid-May, and asked for more detailed information from the Berkeley Police Department’s records bureau, which has not responded to the request despite repeated attempts to learn more about the robbery trends in the city.

No homicides were reported in Berkeley during the first half of the year.

Source: BPD
The 2015 mid-year crime report: other than homicides, numbers are up across the board. Source: BPD

Burglaries increased by 38% during the first half of 2015, police said. The majority of those burglaries involved residential properties, including garages and sheds, which saw an 86% increase. Commercial burglaries decreased by 19%. Berkeleyside took a closer look at the spike in home burglaries in April.

Larcenies increased by 17%, and auto thefts were up 15%.

Rape reports were up by 22%, but police say that is largely because the federal government — which collects crime statistics from law enforcement agencies throughout the nation — expanded its definition of rape to include a broader range of sexual assault cases in its data set. There were 14 rapes reported in the first half of 2014, and 17 reported this year. Police said nine of this year’s rapes would not have been included in the data from prior years, when the more narrow definition was in effect.


Eighty percent of this year’s reported rapes involved acquaintances of some type, either recently introduced or previously known. Two of the cases involved strangers, police said. According to sexual violence experts, the majority of perpetrators of these crimes are known to the victim.

As for aggravated, or more serious, assaults, they were up 44% in 2015, with 22 more incidents than were reported the prior year.

“Aggravated assaults often involve people who know each other. Many of those cases involved victims or suspects who are homeless and/or suffering from mental illness or in some cases both,” police said in the council report.

More than 35% of police calls in Berkeley involve mental health issues, the department said earlier this year. Over the past five years, police have seen a 43% increase in calls for “5150s,” or people who may be a danger to themselves or others.

Arson reports nearly doubled in 2015, from five during the first half of 2014 to nine this year.


The 2015 mid-year crime report: other than homicides, numbers are up across the board. Source: BPD
The 2015 mid-year crime report: other than homicides, numbers are up across the board. Source: BPD

According to police, increases in serious crimes “are being experienced across numerous regional jurisdictions, and increases have also been reported across California. There are various factors being considered as causes for these increases.”

None of those factors were described in the report, but the presentation before council has historically included more detailed information.

In addition to other efforts during the first six months of the year, police said they worked with the Juvenile Probation department to determine whether high-risk juvenile offenders were involved in Berkeley home burglaries; sent out “suppression teams” to crack down on auto burglars using data analysis to determine the highest-risk locations and times; worked with UCPD on rape awareness and prevention education; used a “bait bike” program to apprehend Berkeley bike thieves; and partnered with BikeIndex.org to help track bike ownership to cut down on theft.

The department did not put out monthly newsletters this year, as it has done in the past. It also did not hold regular “Coffee with the Commander” meetings, which it has offered in the past to allow local residents to connect with the police lieutenants who oversee the four areas of the city. Officers did attend various neighborhood watch meetings and other sessions with the community at points during the first half of the year.

Need to contact your local police representative? Find your local area coordinator here. Source: BPD
Want to contact your local Berkeley police representative? Find your area coordinator here. Source: BPD

Police do participate in monthly Berkeley Safe Neighborhoods Committee meetings with the public to address safety concerns and collaborate on crime-prevention strategies.

Police continued to use the Nixle system, which it launched in 2014, to send out crime alerts periodically. Learn more about the department’s Nixle alert program in past Berkeleyside coverage.

In January, the department launched its new beat system “to improve efficiency and equalize workload among patrol officers.” The department plans to analyze the new system this year to make sure it’s working as planned.

BPD is also seeking a Department of Justice grant to help partially fund an additional school resource officer who could help with “services, support and intervention for students at risk of involvement in crime.” There is one school resource officer in the department, who is stationed at Berkeley High. Some have said the Berkeley Unified School District’s alternative high school, Berkeley Technology Academy, should also have a school resource officer due to safety concerns reported there in recent years.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation collects data annually, through its Uniform Crime Report, from over 17,000 law enforcement agencies. The goal of the effort is “to generate a reliable set of crime statistics for use in law enforcement administration, operation, and management in the United States.”

The report tracks violent crimes, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, and property crimes such as burglary, larcency, auto theft and arson.

Council is scheduled to hear the mid-year crime report Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 5:30 p.m. The meeting takes place at the Maudelle Shirek Building, also known as Old City Hall, at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley. Read more about crime in Berkeley on Berkeleyside, and don’t miss Berkeleyside’s weekly crime blotter to stay up-to-date on public safety reports.

Related:
City of Berkeley unveils new open data portal (08.10.15)
Berkeley home burglaries spike in 2015 over prior year (04.07.15)
Violent crime dropped 25% in Berkeley in 2014 (03.10.15)
Violent crime reports down 44% in Berkeley (09.08.14)
Robberies rise, but serious crime down overall in 2013 (03.14.14)
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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