Violent crime rose 18% in Berkeley in 2016, while property crime fell 9%, according to the annual report from police, set to go before City Council next week.
Council gets two basic crime reports from the Berkeley Police Department every year. In March, BPD presents the annual crime report about the prior year. Then, in September, BPD presents data from the first six months of the current calendar year. Neither report goes into much detail, and is focused instead on “part one” crimes — eight types of felonies — that are tracked nationally by the FBI.
The FBI tracks four violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — and four property crimes — burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson. Police said, overall, these part one crimes were down 7% in 2016, which followed the trend seen in the first half of the year.
The department does not analyze the crime rate or look at how crime statistics relate to changes in the city’s population.
“This increase includes a number of shootings, as well as a higher number of aggravated assaults occurring in the downtown and south campus areas, and which frequently involved alcohol or drug abuse by [the] victim and/or suspect and frequently involved acquaintances,” police wrote in the report.
Regarding the shootings, Interim Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said in January of this year that about 300 calls had come in since January 2016 about possible gunfire, although police only found evidence of gunfire in 35 incidents.
According to the crime report, robberies increased about 9%, from 331 in 2015 to 362 in 2016. The Berkeley Police Department said the increase reflected a wave of pedestrian robberies north of the UC Berkeley campus, as well as a “significant commercial robbery series.”
Reported sexual assaults increased 29%, from 41 in 2015 to 53 last year. Police said 79% of the reports involved an acquaintance, while nine involved strangers. Of the stranger sexual assaults, five were part of an unsolved series in the area south of the UC Berkeley campus. Police said three others resulted in arrests or the identification of the person responsible. The department added a full-time sexual assault investigator to its Special Victims Unit team last year due to the rise.
Last year, BPD also arrested a man they say raped several women in 2008 after using DNA and fingerprints to link him to the crimes.
In 2016, there were two homicides — Alex Goodwin Jr., 22, and 19-year-old Gregory Ignacio Jr. — compared to one the prior year. No arrests have been made in the Goodwin case, but Ignacio’s alleged killer is facing a murder charge. Homicides in Berkeley have been on a downward trend since 2012, when there were five, according to the report.
On the property crime side, burglaries showed a steep decrease, down 26% over the prior year, when they peaked at 1,089. In fact, in 2016 they were at their lowest level since 2012, the earliest year included in the report. Home burglaries dropped about 22%, while commercial burglaries dropped 37%.
BPD said reducing property crime had been one of its goals in 2016.
Police also said the arrest of a “prolific career burglar” in Oakland, who had been targeting businesses in Berkeley and Emeryville, helped drive the reduction.
Larcenies were down by nearly 5%, and auto thefts decreased 9%, from 713 to 647.
Arson reports held steady at 20. Two of those cases involved one person with a history of arson and mental illness. Half the incidents were trashcan or dumpster fires, police said.
BPD has continued to struggle to provide sufficient information to the community, though Interim Chief Greenwood — appointed last fall — says he is committed to making that a priority.
Last year, BPD failed to launch any sort of social media program, despite promises to do so that go back years. According to a report in September, “The department is … working with the City PIO to develop and implement a social media strategy using Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor and GovDelivery.”
Last year, the department said it developed a “mission, vision and values” statement to help guide its actions, reorganized its departmental divisions to make operations more efficient, and changed — in January of this year — to a 16-beat structure for patrol that it hopes will work better than the 14-beat structure it adopted in recent years.
BPD has also been working to boost staffing, which had fallen to precipitous levels, and is continuing that effort in 2017.
According to the report, other achievements last year included a BPD collaboration with the Berkeley Unified School District on a class focused on law enforcement careers (a Berkeleyside story is forthcoming); expanded training for officers in de-escalation techniques; and the continued use of Nixle alerts to put out periodic information to the community.
The crime report is part of a nationwide effort, driven by the FBI, to collect data from 17,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States. The goal of this effort, called the Uniform Crime Report, is “to generate a reliable set of crime statistics for use in law enforcement administration, operation, and management in the United States.”
The FBI discourages comparisons among jurisdictions “because of the complex variables affecting crime and crime reporting practices.”
The crime report is scheduled to come before council Tuesday, March 14, in a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. The council session tends to include additional details, and examples of significant cases and arrests from the year.
Berkeley Police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel said Monday that BPD does not comment on the report prior to the council session.
The council report is slated to follow city debt policy training presented by the city’s finance manager.
Meetings take place in Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.