City of Berkeley ranks in bottom 20 of state’s safest cities

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The city of Berkeley ranks in the bottom 20 for safest cities in all of California, according to an online ranking based on FBI data collected during 2016 and 2017.

Security Baron — a safety and security news and review website — compiled the list, which ranks 300 cities in California based on property and violent crime rates per 1,000 people relative to city population, median income and the ratio of policemen to residents.

Berkeley ranked at No. 289 with a safety score of 53.3 out of 100, in which zero is the worst score. The city reported a violent crime rate of 5.43 per 1,000 residents, lower than several cities that ranked above it, but it was weighed down in the rankings due to a high property crime rate of 49.07.

Neighboring city Oakland was the second worst-ranked city on the list, just above Northern California’s Red Bluff. Imperial was ranked as the safest city in the state.

Aliza Vigderman, a staff writer at Security Baron, said all California cities with a population of at least 6,000 were analyzed and ranked on the list. When creating the rankings, Security Baron gave the most weight — in order of decreasing importance — to crimes of murder, rape, assault, robbery, theft, vehicle theft and arson.

Despite the low ranking, Berkeley Police Department, or BPD, spokesperson Officer Byron White said he thinks that Berkeley is generally safe. He said violent crime is low in the city, and the police department’s number one crime continues to be the theft of personal electronics.

The Berkeley 2018 crime report released by BPD states that violent crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault have decreased by 12 percent. Property crimes such as burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson have decreased by 10 percent.

“Just because a city isn’t in the top 50 doesn’t mean they aren’t safe,” Vigderman said. “We don’t want to scare people … we wanted to be a resource for people researching and planning visits and moves to California.”

Vigderman said it is difficult for a city to crack the top 50, especially in a vast state such as California where there are numerous cities with lower populations and higher median incomes, factors that contribute to a city’s high rankings.

A higher police officer-to-residents ratio also raised a city’s ranks, Vigderman said. Data for Berkeley shows that there are 1.32 police officers per 1,000 residents, which is fairly average compared to the ratios of other ranked cities.

White said Berkeley has 181 officers authorized for service, but only 165 are active. He said they have fewer officers in the department than they did a decade ago, but that the decrease aligns with trends throughout the region.

BPD is working to increase the number of officers in service, however, recruitment and training take time, White said.

“Violent crimes are down in Berkeley, but does that mean people feel safer?” White said. “There’s a difference between ‘are people safe’ and ‘do people feel safe,’ but there’s definitely a connection between the two.”

Contact Vanessa Arredondo at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @V_anana.