The number of assaults around Telegraph Avenue, south of the UC Berkeley campus, rose sharply last year, according to the latest available police crime statistics.
While the city police department numbers point to felony rates dropping in parts of Berkeley, those same statistics reveal that the number of aggravated assault cases around north Telegraph Avenue nearly quadrupled between 1998 and 2000, doubling between 1999 and last year.
Berkeley Police were unable to explain the sharp increase.
“The figures are of deep concern (to us),” said Kathy Berger, executive director of the Telegraph Area Association, a grouping of residents and businesses.
According to police department statistics, robberies, burglaries, and auto thefts have dominated crime in the neighborhood which is heavily populated by university students and encompasses Census Tract 28. Assault cases jumped to 104 in 2000 for that census tract from 50 in 1999 and 27 in 1998. The increase was sharper than in other census tracts of the city. Tract 28, which represents 6,407 people or 7.1 percent of Berkeley’s population, is bounded by College Ave., Oxford St. and Dwight Way.
Last year, 7.6 percent of the city’s top eight major crimes took place in that area, a marginal increase from the previous year. This year’s overall crime rate, police statistics show, was identical to 1998: 7.6 percent.
In the lexicon of criminology, “aggravated assault “ is one of those loosely defined terms where the crime can be treated as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on its gravity.
Assault is not considered as serious as murder or rape. But the California attorney general’s office thinks it’s serious enough to rank it among the state’s top eight offenses.
“If I say to you that I’m going to punch you in the face, and I move my fist toward your nose, and I hit you, that’s assault, “ said Susan Underwood, a legal expert with the attorney general’s crime prevention division. “If I say to you that I’m going to punch you in the face, and I move my fist toward your face but I stop myself from punching you – that’s still assault.”