The FBI has released a preliminary uniform crime report detailing the crime levels for large cities around the country, showing that from 2010 to 2011, crime levels in the city of Berkeley have fallen.
The report’s Berkeley statistics led to a 2011 crime report submitted by Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan to Mayor Tom Bates and Berkeley City Council, which says the city achieved a 14 percent reduction in total crime, including a 10 percent reduction in violent crime.
The largest decline in reported crime was in the larceny category, which experienced a 19 percent decrease, according to the FBI report. Larceny consists of petty theft, grand theft and auto burglaries.
These trends are similar nationwide, as every category of crime experienced a drop except for the burglary category, according to the FBI report. Overall, both Berkeley and the country as a whole have experienced reductions in crime levels over the last five years, the FBI report states.
Councilmember Gordon Wozniak attributed these successes to Berkeley Police Department’s commitment to lowering the crime rate by 10 percent. He described how the area coordinators meet twice a week and look for crime patterns and hot spots around the city.
“The core group of department leaders and members discuss the various trends and issues and then come up with several simple responses,” said Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss about the biweekly meetings. “The leaders are assigned these tasks and then follow through with them.”
Wozniak also expressed his appreciation for the city’s police officers. He acknowledged the fact that Berkeley Police Department has experienced reductions due to budget cuts, but complimented the department for making do with the resources they have.
Kusmiss emphasized the importance of the Special Enforcement Unit, which combats illegal drug use through cultivating informants and conducting warranted searches. She said there is a nexus between drugs and violence.
“A lot of the work done by the Special Enforcement Unit is more behind the scenes, but it is still an extremely important part of our efforts to keep Berkeley safe,” Kusmiss said.
While the FBI report shows that the level of arson has remained constant, the Berkeley Police report shows there was a 4 percent increase in arson from 2010 to 2011. Kusmiss explained that many of these arson incidents were events like dumpster fires and were not life threatening. She also stated that the police department is working closely with the fire department to prevent further cases of arson.
Meehan has come under fire recently for recent decisions to send Kusmiss to a reporter’s home after midnight to request a change to an article as well as for using officers to search for his son’s missing iPhone. However, Councilmember Laurie Capitelli praised Meehan’s role in the reduction of crime, noting Meehan’s drive to introduce more modern technology and techniques into everyday police work.
Both Kusmiss and Wozniak acknowledged that the city and police department’s work is far from complete. According to the FBI report, the number of murders in Berkeley fell from five to one from 2010 to 2011, but there have already been three homicides in Berkeley in 2012.
“It’s not enough to have just parts of the city be safe and still have dangerous areas,” Wozniak said about the city’s plans moving forward. “We want all of the city to be safe.”