City crime report details increase in violent, property crimes

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The annual city crime report was presented at a special city work session Tuesday and detailed a trend of increased crime rates in Berkeley last year.

According to Berkeley Police Department Chief Michael Meehan, who presented the report, the city has seen a rise in Part 1 crimes — classified as violent and property crimes — which corresponds with regional trends, whereas national trends last year were slightly different.

“Looking at crime nationwide during the previous year, preliminary data for the first six months of 2015 indicates an increase in violent crime and a decrease in property crime,” Meehan said during the presentation.

Meehan said the western region of the United States experienced different crime changes than those of other regions, with data from 66 California cities reflecting significant increases in both violent and property crimes.

Overall, Part 1 crimes increased by 16.1 percent in 2015, compared to 2014. Property crimes increased by 15.7 percent, while violent crimes increased by 19.5 percent, primarily due to an increase in robberies. There was only one homicide in 2015, compared to three in 2014.

Reported rapes increased by 64 percent from 2014 to 2015, the report stated, from 25 reported rapes to 41. Since the beginning of 2016, there have been 17 reported sexual assaults in Berkeley, according to BPD spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats.

A series of sexual assaults have occurred since Feb. 11, all taking place south of campus. According to BPD Investigations Division Commander Capt. Dave Frankel, the majority of the victims of these assaults were female UC Berkeley students.

Frankel said it is “too early to tell” whether these events point to a possible increase in sexual assaults for 2016.

The increase in reported rapes is because of a revised definition, which increased the number reported to the state, Frankel said in his report.

The previous definition, based on the 1927 Uniform Crime Report, labeled “forcible rape” as the rape of a woman by force and against her will, excluding other sexual assault offences and male victims entirely. The new definition now encompasses more sexual assault offenses, regardless of gender.

“Comparing this year to last year, using the new definition for both years, we actually saw a 4.6 percent drop, with 41 cases this year, compared to 43 in 2014,” Frankel said.

The report emphasized preventative efforts in addressing crimes, primarily through education and outreach, and noted the importance of citizens watching their surroundings and locking their doors and windows. BPD Capt. Andrew Greenwood, operations division commander, noted that 45 percent of residential burglaries involve open or unlocked homes.

“This represents hundreds of opportunities for burglars to exploit,” Greenwood said. “Or it can represent hundreds of opportunities for residents to act mindfully to reduce their risk of being burgled.”

The crime report also noted that the majority of crimes are committed by repeat offenders, meaning that the majority of crime is committed by a small part of the population. In addition, the report stated that bike thefts rise in the fall, and police believe this correlates with an influx of new students for the school year.

UCPD spokesperson Officer Sabrina Reich declined to comment on the city crime report but said Part 1 crimes on campus have actually decreased by 23 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Anderson Lanham is the lead crime & courts reporter. Contact her at [email protected].