The crime report presented at a special workshop of the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night showed a consistent decrease in part one crimes, the serious crimes tracked by annual statistics. Since 2006, part one crime in Berkeley has been reduced by 19%. Within that, violent crime is down 18% and property crime down 19%.

“Every time we receive these reports, I’m stunned and delighted because for eight-and-a-half years we’ve seen crime drop significantly,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington at the meeting. “It’s an astounding achievement. We should give some kind of positive reward to the a police department that achieves such astonishing results.”

The encouraging trend has continued into the first quarter of this year (see table above). Violent crime is about level with last year, but Captain Cynthia Harris told the City Council that 2010 was “an abnormally low year for robberies”. The current year is “still low for us”, even though robberies have increased from 64 in 2010 to 79 this year, according to Harris. The reduction is property crime has been particularly steep in the first quarter. The exception to the trend is arson, but Harris pointed out that the 60% increase is on very few incidents. None of them have been serious.

The crime report presentation also included a focus on two crime series that the Berkeley Police Department solved successfully. The first, dubbed the Silver Revolver Series, was cracked by arrests of nine suspects on December 12 last year. One suspect was charged with with 12 Berkeley robberies and multiple robberies in other cities (see map, right, with the 12 Berkeley robberies). Another two series were highlighted, both involving juvenile crime. In one series, 21 burglaries were related to five juveniles, in the other 17 burglaries were related to another group of five juveniles.

In the middle of the praise from councilmembers for the declining crime rates, Gordon Wozniak did raise one issue. “All areas of the city are not equally safe,” he said. “How do we make areas of the city that have higher crime rates more safe?”

Lt. Andy Greenwood also told the council that the BPD had completed implementation of its suite of public safety software. The final element, which allows for field reporting into the system, went live last month. Greenwood said the new system allows rapid access to reports, improves data accuracy and expands the department’s reporting capabilities.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

Join the Conversation


  1. I don’t know about crime rates and what is reported and what is not but I do know that in my neighborhood the BPD is always very responsive to our calls to the non-emergency line. I live near Strawberry Creek Park (the edge of West Berkeley/Downtown). Any time there is something that sounds like a gunshot, a group of people fighting and getting violent, someone driving crazy down the street and doing wheelies or playing very loud music while sitting in a car we call and the non-emergency line and few minutes later the a police car or two drive down the street, sometimes they stop and talk to us, sometimes they just drive through and on occasion they make an arrest. It definitely helps to keep calling. Our street is much improved over the last 7 years and we appreciate the BPDs time and attention.

  2. Laura, as we have discussed, I suspect that petty crimes go largely unreported. Heres an example of why:

    Me “Hi, I’d like to report gun shots at X and X St.
    BPD Dispatch: “We’ve already gotten a report, ma’am and are checking it now.”
    Me: “Okay, thanks…”

    Some time later, another burst of semi-automatic gunfire, which doesn’t does remotely sound like firecrackers.

    Me: “There are gunshots in at X and X Sts.”
    BPD dispatch: “We’ve determined it was firecrackers”
    me: “No, it was not firecrackers, I am familiar with both and those were not firecrackers.”
    dispatch: “It was firecrackers, MA’AM. We’ve already determined that.”
    Me: “Well these were NOT firecrackers.”

    more or less end of discussion…

    Guess who I don’t call if it’s not in front of my house!

    If I call and they treat me like an idiot, or they don’t do anything, I am unlikely to call back.

  3. The same thing happened to me Sharkey. I stopped reporting so-called Petty crime. Well I realize the error of my ways — I’m not reporting every damned thing I hear, see or imagine I hear or see…

  4. Peter,

    so do you identify with anti-Cassandra people, like Alan Greenspan.
    remember Cassandra was telling the truth…

    The crime trend nationally is downward for several years, even with a national recession and more people living in poverty.

    Clearance rate for Alameda county 2009:

    there are plenty of other data charts available on the CA AG website.

  5. How horribly inconvenient for our “Cassandras” that the crime rate is going down. I’m sure, that like the birthers, they’ll find a way to twist the facts so that they can continue to wail about how horrible, horrible things are here and how the Berkeley Police and Government are to blame.

  6. What was left out was the % increase, which would have stood out as the largest increase in green.

    Additionally, the chief mentioned he provided the Supt with a truancy reduction initiative, noting there was close to 40 burglaries committed by juveniles during the day.

  7. “The current year is ‘still low for us’, even though robberies have
    increased from 64 in 2010 to 79 this year, according to Harris.”

    I didn’t leave it out.

  8. I stopped reporting petty theft to the BPD a few years ago. The most they ever did was send an officer out with a clipboard, take a few notes, and then never actually follow up.

    The final straw was when I had a car break in accompanied by the theft of my audio system, and the responding officer wouldn’t even bother trying to dust for fingerprints or even look at the car from any closer than six feet away.

  9. Most cities are seeing the same reduction in part 1 crimes, many attribute it to lower auto theft rates, since new cars are harder to steal. Remember the robbery rate has risen, I think Lance left that out of the report, I listen to council via radio, so feel free to correct me, but I recall Meehan reporting robberies up around 26%.

    Considering the expensive records management system the dept has purchased, 2 FTE in crime analysis, and a well staff city IT dept, this report is not worth what taxpayers fund, nor is it useful presentation for council purposes, if they are interested in reducing the # of crime victims in their city.

    When, how and where crime is occurring is meaningful data. We saw one map describing a robbery series.

  10. All this says is some people quit reporting thefts. On their behalf: sorry for not trying to share the danger but getting on with life seemed more appealing.

  11. To place these statistics for Berkeley into some context, I’d like to see these trends compared to the parallel data from our neighbors: Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, Emeryville and Oakland.

    I’m optimistic about the future of the Berkeley Police Department under the leadership of our new chief. But I’d like to see if we’re doing better or worse compared to other cities.

  12. Nice report Lance.

    Council members focused on the public perception of crime and exceeding the 10% reduction goal, but not one of them asked the most elemental questions. For instance when the chief explained the ongoing high rate of robberies no one requested a breakdown into robbery by gun or strong arm.

    The quarterly crime report lasted maybe 15 or so minutes, several council members had gone down stairs to the library rally. Prior to the crime report the human resource dept presented a 45 minute report on racial diversity in the fire and police dept. Now during that report both Moore and Anderson had plenty to say, including a request for the dept to come back with disaggregated data specific to rank, are enough people of color in top positions.

    Again the focus is on the color of the cops skin, and not how to reduce the number of victims of violent robberies.