At a luncheon with the Berkeley Lions Club last week, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan gave an overview of the department's goals, successes and struggles, and answered questions about crime in Berkeley. Here are the first 5 things Meehan shared about policing Berkeley. Interested in the next 5 things the chief wants you to know? Click on "keep me posted!" below to receive an email update with the next installment.
Crime is Going Down in Berkeley
The Berkeley Police Department is striving toward the goal of a 10 percent reduction in Part I crime. The FBI classifies violent crimes as Part I crimes, which include murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault and the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft.
"Last year we came really close with an 8.8 percent reduction," said Meehan, who added that the drop was twice the state average.
The Ultimate Goal is No Crime
"There is no amount of crime that is acceptable," said Meehan. "The level we want to get to is zero."
Meehan added that while "no crime" may seem an impossible goal, accepting anything less is not a valid alternative, because every crime means a victim being hurt in some way. The department strives to see less crime every day, Meehan said.
A Down Economy Doesn't Always Mean Upped Crime
Fluctuations in violent crime are generally a mystery, explained Meehan.
"Sometimes when the economy has gone down, crime has gone up — other times, not so," said Meehan. "During the Depression, crime went down." While lesser crimes may go up when the economy is down, "generally, with Part I crimes, there is no consistency," he said.
Meehan added that his philosophy in the department is not to hold anyone to account for crime going up, "because we don't always know why it goes up," he said. "The only thing is ask people to do is know that it's going up, especially in their area, and have some plan to address it."
There Has Only Been One Homicide in Berkeley in 2011
The murder on Blake Street in March has been the city's only homicide in 2011. By October last year, there had already been five murders in Berkeley.
Berkeley Has a High Number of Traffic Collisions with Pedestrian Injuries
The city has been working on a public safety master plan, according to Meehan, to deal with the high number of traffic collisions involving pedestrians. When compared to cities of similar size and population in California, Meehan said, Berkeley ranks at the top for the number of traffic collisions causing injury to pedestrians, and has done so for the past six years.
The police department is providing additional enforcement in areas where the highest number of traffic injury-collisions involving pedestrians occur, Meehan said.
Do you have a question for the Berkeley Police Department? Let us know in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to include it in our weekly Q&A with PIO Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.
This article was updated to clarify the pedestrian-injury element of Berkeley's traffic collision rate.