Reducing crime, particularly property crime, was addressed by Police Chief Doug Hambleton at a 5 p.m. council workshop Tuesday.
“The overall crime rate has been declining in Berkeley over the past several years,” consistent with other Bay Area cities, the chief reported in his report to the council.
Auto thefts, however are increasing, with 1,189 in 2004 and 1,266 in 2005. This year, the trend looks like it may be easing up with 340 auto thefts during the first quarter of this year, compared to 364 during the first quarter of last year.
“We recover 93 percent of the autos that were stolen,” the chief said. Most are recovered without significant damage. “Most are stolen for transportation, not to be stripped down,” he said.
The chief noted that the department has purchased 1,000 steering-wheel locks to give away to residents, especially owners of older Toyotas and Hondas, to help deter thefts. Hambleton said he does not yet have a distribution plan.
The police force has been reduced by 13 officers over the last two years, Hambleton noted. However, the department is increasing its presence on Telegraph Avenue by paying officers overtime. (Councilmember Kriss Worthington noted, however, that with the increase of policing on Telegraph, there has been an increase in complaints of drug trafficking on Regent Street.)
People can help deter auto break-ins by locking cars and keeping inviting-looking objects out of sight. The department will be doing a public information campaign on crime deterrence for new students in August-September.
While the chief said he would like additional officers, “I’m also in favor of more tutors and recreation leaders. We have to take a holistic approach,” he said