Berkeley Police Department presents crime report, use-of-force report during Berkeley City Council meeting

Photo of City Council Meeting in November of 2019
Josh Kahen/Senior Staff
Berkeley City Council meets in November 2019. According to Berkeley’s 2020 crime report, which was presented by Berkeley Police Department Chief Andrew Greenwood during Tuesday's City Council meeting, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted some crime rates in the city.

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During the regular Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday, Berkeley Police Department Chief Andrew Greenwood presented the city of Berkeley’s 2020 crime report, as well as the city’s first annual police use-of-force report.

Overall, crime has fallen by 1% in 2020, although marked shifts in some crime trends have been observed amid the pandemic, according to Greenwood. After an initial dip in crime during the first months of the shelter-in-place order, some forms of theft have increased significantly.

Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise, and car thefts have also “risen sharply,” with a 66% increase over the previous year, according to the crime report. Greenwood was “cautious” about speculating on causes but attributed the increase to a relatively low threat of incarceration for nonviolent crimes resulting from efforts to keep jail populations low during the pandemic.

“Those cases, if they don’t transform into a violent crime, are not resulting in a person staying in custody for hardly any time at all,” Greenwood said during the meeting. “Choosing to make your money that way or choosing to commit those crimes — the consequence is very low right now.”

While violent crime has been down overall, homicide has risen compared to the last two years. In 2020, four homicides have taken place, all of which have resulted in arrests, according to Greenwood.

During the use-of-force report, Greenwood outlined information on incidents in which force was used from 2015 to 2019. Following revisions made to BPD use-of-force guidelines in July, the department will now issue use-of-force reports annually for analysis.

According to the use-of-force report, BPD officers responded to nearly 77,000 calls and conducted about 3,000 arrests per year during the five-year period. During those years, officers used force in 0.04% of all incidents and in 1% of arrests.

In most cases, force was limited to physical techniques to effectively arrest against resistant or combative behavior. The use of weapons — batons, pepper spray or “less lethal” projectiles — was less common, and firearms were not used in any cases reviewed in the report.

The report also offered demographic information about suspects involved in cases where force was used, and much of this information tracked racial disparities observed in BPD arrest data during the same period, according to Greenwood.

The council also allocated $900,000 a year to support the construction of 39 units of permanent supportive housing on University Avenue. The fully furnished units will include 24/7 wraparound services, a food pantry and on-site counseling resources, according to Councilmember Ben Bartlett, who authored the item.

“This is meant to be an effective tool in our arsenal of combating homelessness,” Bartlett said during the meeting. “This represents the real model in response to a rapidly growing homeless crisis in the city.”

Contact Matt Brown and Jacob Souza at [email protected].