Violent crime is up in Berkeley by double digits for the third year running, according to the latest annual crime report from the Berkeley Police Department.
Overall violent crime rose 12% in 2017, compared to the prior year, following an 18% increase in 2016 and a 20% increase in 2015. Property crime was up in 2017, too, also by 12%, BPD reports.
Berkeley police officials will present the annual crime report during a Berkeley City Council work session Tuesday night. The report summarizes crime trends across eight categories tracked by the FBI: homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, on the violent crime side, and burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson in the property crime division.
Rape reports have been on the increase since 2014, when the department got just 25 reports for the year. In 2017, 87 reports came in to the department. In 2014, a Berkeley resident had a 2 in 10,000 chance of being a victim of rape. In 2017, that same resident had a 7 in 10,000 chance. BPD said it sees the increase as “a reflection of the nationwide increasing awareness of sexual assault, and a willingness to report sexual assault.”
Aggravated assaults have also seen a persistent increase in recent years, with a 20% increase over 2016. BPD said “a portion” of these assaults took place during numerous political protests last year, but the “majority of aggravated assaults involve people known to each other, where conflict escalates into physical assault.”
Overall robbery figures remained nearly flat over the prior year, with pedestrian robberies dropping and commercial robberies increasing slightly. The likelihood of being robbed has increased from about 23 in 10,000, in 2014, to 30 in 10,000 over the past two years. The city averages about a robbery a day. BPD said several of the robberies were “laptop thefts, where a victim or witness end up in a struggle with the suspect, a trend which we saw develop in 2017.” (One of those robberies resulted in a shooting in North Berkeley in December.)
BPD said shootings fell significantly in 2017, by 42%, from 26 in 2016 to 15 last year. Six of those cases resulted in arrests. Most of the shootings resulted in property damage only, if that, though some led to injuries.
There was one homicide in Berkeley in 2017. Emilie Inman, 27, was fatally stabbed at her South Berkeley home in January 2017. Pablo Gomez Jr. is facing murder and attempted murder charges in the case. Gomez remains in custody.
On the property crime side, auto burglaries saw a 32% increase over 2016, and commercial burglaries jumped by 15%, according to BPD. Home burglaries fell by nearly 5%, however. And auto thefts have fallen for the third straight year: After a high of 713 in 2015, 619 vehicles were stolen in Berkeley last year.
Larcenies saw the biggest increase in raw numbers, to 4,556, from 3,927 the prior year. That’s a 16% increase, as well as the highest number of larceny reports to come in to BPD over the past five years, which was the period of time reviewed in the crime report.
Arson reports jumped from 20 in 2016 to 33 last year, a 65% increase, although none were “major incidents,” BPD said: “There have been three recent arrests of arson suspects, one of whom is a serial arsonist with a history of drug use and mental health issues.”
In a recent email to constituents, Mayor Jesse Arreguín addressed Berkeley’s crime increase.
“I am troubled by news reports and statistics showing that crime in Berkeley has steadily increased over the past several years,” he wrote. “Although the overall crime rate is lower today than it was a decade ago, the recent uptick – a trend replicated nationally – is worrisome and must be addressed. I, along with other council members, want to do everything we can to help the Berkeley Police Department not only fight crime, but be proactive in crime prevention.”
The mayor also commended BPD for its “great track record over the years,” writing: “It has some of the best-trained and most educated officers, and has avoided the type of scandals that plague many agencies. We value and respect our officers and want to help them do their jobs.”
Arreguín and other city officials will have a chance Tuesday to ask questions about the crime report and provide further observations.
The crime report is set to take place during a council work session Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Also on the agenda, a report on the city’s mental health division and an update on the city’s approach to cannabis regulation. No action is expected. See the full agenda and related documents on the city’s website.