Presentation shows downward trend in crime rates, addresses school gun activity

Persia Salehi/Staff

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A presentation given by the Berkeley Police Department at a City Council work session April 26 detailing statistics compiled from 2009, 2010 and the early months of 2011 showed an overall downward trend in crime rates for Berkeley and addressed the recent rise in crime at Berkeley High School.

According to the report, the number of "Part One" crimes - meaning violent crimes, property crimes and arson - decreased 9 percent between 2009 and 2010. The report also compared part one crime rates between January and March 2010 to January and March 2011, showing an overall 21 percent decrease, dropping from 1,777 to 1,395 crimes, respectively.

"We're getting better crime analysis and employing different strategies to address issues," said Berkeley Police Department Capt. Cynthia Harris. Harris declined to comment further on the exact strategies used, however.

Total violent crimes decreased 14 percent between 2009 and 2010 and total property crimes between 2009 and 2010 decreased 8 percent, according to the presentation. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes include burglary, motor vehicle theft and larceny - meaning grand theft, auto burglary and petty theft.

"These numbers are really encouraging," said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. "My hope is that we can see even more of a reduction in robberies and other violent crime next year."

Despite overall decreases, the presentation did show an increase in some types of crimes, including a bump in individual reports of arson and violent crime between January and March 2010 and January and March 2011.

The number of arson crimes that occurred between January and March of 2011 was 60 percent greater, compared to the same time period in 2010. In 2010, there were five reports of arson between January and March versus eight reports of arson from January to March 2011.

According to Harris, at this point, increases did not seem statistically significant, adding that the police department does not know if some of the fires classified as arson were accidental.

Arreguin said part of the reason the arson statistics could be higher may be due to a series of incidents involving people lighting garbage cans on fire throughout Berkeley.

The number of violent crimes from January to March 2011 increased by one percent compared to rates from January to March 2010, meaning one additional violent crime for the 2011 time span due primarily to a spike in the number of robbery incidents in Berkeley.

In addition to the crime reports at the meeting, the police department also offered a list of recommendations to the Berkeley Unified School District in response to the rise in recent gun activity on the Berkeley High School campus.

The recommendations included improving the district security plan, requiring school-specific identification, adding school resource officers and making Berkeley High School a closed campus at specific times during the day.

According to a March 31 letter from police Chief Michael Meehan to Superintendent Bill Huyett, the department considers restricting access to the high school campus its "highest priority recommendation" in part because "problems occur because non-students freely travel on campus and mingle with our students."

"The recent incidents where people are bringing guns on campus really require us to re-evaluate the security measures," Arreguin said.


Contact Sarah Burns at [email protected]

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