State report reveals 10 percent increase in violent crimes in 2015

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A report published Friday by California Attorney General Kamala Harris revealed a 10 percent increase in violent crimes — which include homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault in California from 2014 to 2015.

Berkeley also experienced a dramatic increase of violent crime over that span, according to the Berkeley Police Department’s 2015 mid-year crime report. The report showed violent crimes increased from a total of 173 within the first six months of 2014 to 254 within the first six months of 2015 — a 68 percent increase.

The full 2015 year crime rate report will not be submitted until August, according to BPD Capt. Dave Frankel.

“Based on the number we have, we can’t say confidently the causes of the (increase),” said Elliott Currie, campus alumnus and UC Irvine criminology professor. He added that it is difficult to explain the causes of change for only one year’s worth of data.

Currie added that it is important to break down the 10 percent increase by city in California to conclude how much Berkeley’s increase in violent crime contributed to the overall statewide increase.

Although there are no specific reasons that explain the cause of the increase, there have been many speculations. According to Currie, a possible reason for the rise was due to changes implemented by the California Justice System, such as Proposition 47, which reduces the consequences of drug possession felonies.

“It’s very hard to make a strong case that explains this rise,” Currie said. “We need to see if it’s temporary or if it keeps going.”

Additionally, Harris’s report said that although the number of reported rape incidents in California increased from 9,397 in 2014 to 12,793 in 2015, they cannot be compared, because of the expanded definition of the crime, which eliminated the term “forcible rape.”

According to Currie, the FBI eliminated the word “forcible” because when someone gets assaulted while drunk, it is not an assault by force.

The crime report from BPD included a section on “personal safety measures” that included tips such as avoiding walking alone, keeping electronics out of sight and using cell phone tracking and security features.

Many have raised concerns, however, that these only provide short-term solutions. According to Frankel, the police station often see repeat offenders committing crimes.

“This shows (that a) small number of people are responsible for a lot of crimes,” Frankel said.

For a long-term result, Currie suggested implementing programs that provide more opportunities and treatment for people who are not in jail. He added that such programs are currently underfunded and lacking.

Harris published a separate report the same day that reported a 10.4 percent increase in hate crime incidents involving religious, ethnic and sexual orientation bias in California from 2014 to 2015.

Contact Stina Chang at [email protected].