A recently released report on crime in Berkeley revealed a 17.9 percent increase in the city’s instances of violent crime in 2016 as compared to 2015.
The report was provided by Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley at the request for regular reports of crime from City Council. It was submitted by Berkeley Police Department acting Chief Andrew Greenwood, and its data was collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The report stated that while crime in Berkeley decreased overall by 7 percent, increases were seen in instances of rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Property crimes, including burglary, larceny and auto thefts, experienced decreases compared to 2015. Burglary decreased by 26.3 percent, with a 21.7 percent decrease in residential burglaries and a 37 percent decrease in commercial burglaries. This reduction in commercial burglaries is partially attributed to the arrest of a prolific career burglar, the report said. Instances of larceny decreased by 4.6 percent, and auto thefts decreased by 9.3 percent.
Robberies went up from 331 instances in 2015 to 362 in 2016. The report attributed this increase of 9.4 percent in part to a rise in pedestrian robberies on the northern side of campus and in commercial robberies.
Reports of rape surged from 41 in 2015 to 53 in 2016, increasing by 29.27 percent. The report stated that 79 percent of the reported rapes involved an acquaintance of some kind, with only nine of the reports involving sexual assaults by strangers. Of these nine, five were part of a series of sexual assaults that took place south of campus and resulted in an arrest. Another three of the nine resulted in arrests or identification of the suspects.
Cases of aggravated assault increased significantly, with 182 reports in 2016 compared to 135 reports in 2015 — a 34.8 percent rise. This increase includes shootings and aggravated assaults involving alcohol and drug abuse. The reports also stated that these altercations were frequently between acquaintances.
The total number of arrests in cases of robberies, sexual assault and aggravated assaults was not specified in the report. Closure rates were also not specified in cases of burglary, larceny, auto theft or arson.
“I’m interested to know specifically how many of these violent crimes were solved,” said Boomer Vicente, a member of the Police Review Commission and a campus student.
BPD spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel said in an email he couldn’t comment on the report until after it has been presented to City Council.
But Andrea Pritchett, a PRC commissioner and a founding member of the community organization Copwatch, called the 17.9 percent increase “significant.”
“I think it’s certainly worthwhile to analyze the incidents involved and the causes,” Pritchett said. “I think that what’s really important is how we respond. And I think that response has to focus on evidence-based policing rather than on increased police presence alone.”