Statistics show decrease in violent and property crimes

Preliminary statistics indicate an overall decrease in violent and property crime in Berkeley during the first six months of 2011 compared to the same time period the previous year — a trend mirrored in surrounding cities.

The Berkeley Police Department recorded 4 percent fewer Part One Violent Crimes — which include homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault and robbery — between January and June 2011 than during the same period in 2010, according to statistics released Tuesday by the department. Part One Property Crime — including burglary, auto theft, theft and arson — decreased 16 percent during the same period.

Among the eight types of Part One crimes, four have decreased since 2010 in Berkeley, with a 3 percent decrease in robbery, a 12 percent decrease in aggravated assault, a 23 percent decrease in theft and a 50 percent drop in homicide, amounting to one fewer murder case.

Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, spokesperson for the department, said that while it is impossible to connect crime rate changes to any one factor, police tactics may have had a part in the recent dramatic decrease in theft rates.

“One theory is that we have been doing a lot more focused work and analyzing where theft is happening and when and doing a lot of special projects and arresting habitual offenders,” she said.

The four other Part One crimes saw increases during the 2011 time period. Compared to 2010, statistics recorded between January and June of 2011 show an 8 percent increase in auto theft, a 0.6 percent increase in burglary, a 36 percent increase in rapes and a 50 percent increase in the number of arson cases,  meaning five additional instances.

Kusmiss attributed the increase in rape cases over the 2011 time span in part to an increase in the likelihood a woman will report a rape rather than an increase in the occurrence of the crime, a trend she said has been persistent over the past 15 years as more women report acquaintance or date rape crimes. Kusmiss added that so far this year, none of the rapes reported to BPD were committed by strangers.

Berkeley Safe Neighborhood Committee board member Laura Menard said she finds problems with the police department’s lack of a more sophisticated analysis of its crime statistics.

“A rudimentary analysis that just has some numbers is not a good analysis,” she said.

Statistics from the nearby Richmond Police Department indicate a more significant decrease in violent crime statistics — nearly 18 percent between the same months from 2010 to 2011 — but a less significant decrease in property crimes, with roughly 1.5 percent fewer property crimes recorded between the same months from 2010 to 2011 for an overall total decrease of about 4 percent in all Part One crime during the six-month periods.

According to a June 27 crime report from the Oakland Police Department, the city saw about a 14 percent decrease in the total number of Part One crimes committed between Jan. 1 and July 3 in 2011 compared to that period in 2010.

Sarah Burns is the lead crime reporter.