Robberies, Burglaries Way Up And Cops Want More Officers on the Streets
By Doug Oakley Staff Writer Bay Area News Group email@example.com
BERKELEY -- Violent crime is on its way up here, and the city's police union says it needs more bodies to push it back down.
Robberies were up 25 percent to 221 for the first six months of the year and burglaries were up 34 percent to 479, according to a midyear crime report from the Berkeley Police Department.
Police Chief Michael Meehan will present the findings to the City Council on Tuesday.
While the report showed there was just one homicide through the end of June, the number now stands at four for the year. Last year there were five homicides, and there was just one in 2011.
Berkeley Police Officers Association President Chris Stines said the department needs more officers to stop further increases in robberies and burglaries. The upward trend in homicides is concerning, too, he said.
"Staffing is the biggest factor in crime trending back up," Stines said. "We're at a tipping point over whether we can provide the services and coverage the community expects."
The city has authorized the Police Department for 176 officers, but the department is well below 170 at the moment, Stines said. With officers retiring and new officers constantly coming on, it's hard to determine an exact number, both Stines and Meehan said.
The number of officers the city allows the Police Department is way down from 210 back in the 1990s, Stines said.
Stines said the department started the summer with 150 officers, "so we're in a serious staffing crunch and we have open beats in critical areas of the city."
Stines said an open beat is an area where no officer patrols on a regular basis. He said there are open beats in the hills, the northeast side of town and on the south side.
Meehan agreed the number of officers is not up to what the city allows the department to have, but he did not provide a specific number.
"We spend all the money the city gives us and we hire as many officers as we can as quickly as we can," Meehan said. "I don't know what our specific numbers are. I would love to have as many officers as the city allocates us, but we do have to work within our budget."
Reported rapes were even during the period compared with 2012, at 18; aggravated assaults were down from 61 to 60, and arson was up from six incidents last year to eight this year, the report said.
On the bright side, auto thefts were down 8 percent to 293 for the first six months of the year, a number that defies regional trends. Auto thefts in Alameda County were up 16 percent in the same period and up 4 percent statewide, the report said.
Contact DougOakley at 510-843-1408. Follow him on Twitter/douglasoakley.