Berkeley crime trends in 2023: Everything you need to know

Which Berkeley crimes went up last year and which went down? We pored over the 2023 data to bring you the trends and highlights.

Berkeley crime trends in 2023: Everything you need to know
A Berkeley police investigation in December 2023. Stephan Baum-Harvey

Serious crime was up in Berkeley across several key categories in 2023, according to the latest available BPD data.

The Scanner delved into Berkeley's 2023 crime statistics now that full-year data are in.

In 2023, Berkeley saw big jumps in its robbery numbers, including carjackings, although other serious violent crimes were essentially flat.

Serious property crime was up almost across the board, with big increases in auto theft, commercial burglaries, auto burglaries and arson.

An important disclaimer: The statistics in this report come from the Berkeley Police Department's Transparency Hub and may differ from the official year-end crime report stats from BPD (which usually come out in March) due to variations in how the numbers are tallied.

The Scanner uses the Transparency Hub to track Berkeley crime stats throughout the year.

We are reporting on the year-end numbers now for the sake of consistency and because the Transparency Hub is BPD's main data portal and way of tracking crime statistics over time. We'll also write about the annual report when it is published.

Robberies were up in Berkeley in 2023

If you've been reading The Berkeley Scanner for any length of time, it will be no surprise to learn that robberies in Berkeley were up 27% in 2023.

Overall, there were 380 robberies in Berkeley in 2023 compared to 299 the prior year.

Those numbers reflect all robberies reported in the city, including carjacking and home-invasion robbery reports.

Read more about robberies in Berkeley.

Most robberies, such as pedestrian robberies, fall into the 211 penal code category. Those increased from 280 in 2022 to 362 last year, a 29% increase.

Carjackings in Berkeley also saw a major spike last year, going from 14 in 2022 to 41 in 2023. That's a 193% increase.

Serious property crime was up in Berkeley in 2023

Most major property crimes saw significant increases in Berkeley in 2023.

Vehicle thefts saw the biggest jump, with 855 auto theft reports in 2022 compared to 1,348 last year, a 58% increase.

Commercial burglaries also spiked, going from 435 in 2022 to 565 last year, a 30% increase.

Despite the increase, BPD chose not to apply for a state retail theft grant that brought more resources to other jurisdictions.

Commercial burglary spike in Berkeley; Creekwood hit again
“It impacts customers’ perception of safety,” said Creekwood Restaurant owner Greg Poulios. “People may not come in.”

Meanwhile, home burglaries were essentially flat, with about 630 reports each year.

Auto break-ins also went up in Berkeley in 2023, going from 1,260 in 2022 to 1,466 last year, a 16% increase.

Arson remains much less common in Berkeley than burglary but it also rose last year, going from 51 reports in 2022 to 72 arson calls in 2023, a 42% increase.

Sex crime data was murky in Berkeley in 2023

Sex crime statistics are much harder to track than other crimes in Berkeley because of how the department has historically categorized the data.

According to the Transparency Hub, Berkeley had about 165 sex crime reports in both 2022 and 2023.

The challenge, however, is that BPD has a "catch-all" category called "juvenile sex crimes" that does not reflect whether those crimes were felonies or misdemeanors.

According to the Transparency Hub, Berkeley had 68 felony sex crimes in 2022 and 86 in 2023, which would indicate a 26% increase in this category.

But crimes listed as juvenile sex crimes dropped from 45 in 2022 to 25 in 2023. And some of those crimes are felonies.

Because there's no way to break out the felonies within the juvenile sex crime category, there's no way to track all of the felony sex crimes in Berkeley on a rolling basis.

(The Scanner has asked BPD to review this issue and consider making this more transparent.)

Read more about sex crimes in Berkeley.

Reported misdemeanor sex crimes were essentially flat from 2022 to 2023, with just over 50 listed each year.

But, again, the juvenile sex crime category makes it impossible to know how overall misdemeanor sex crime reports actually changed.

BPD has said that anyone who would like to know the actual number of felony and misdemeanor sex crimes at any given time can file a Public Records Act request.

Unfortunately, that makes it difficult to report the data in a timely manner, such as when serious new sex crimes occur.

Shootings were down in Berkeley in 2023

Berkeley shootings in 2023: The definitive gunfire map
Berkeley had 35 shootings in 2023 with eight people wounded. BPD also had two fatal police shootings.

BPD had two fatal officer-involved shootings in 2023 — the department's first since 2010.

Aside from those incidents, Berkeley had 35 shootings or gunfire reports in 2023 compared to 57 in 2022 — marking a 39% decrease.

Eight people were wounded in Berkeley shootings last year compared to 16 in 2022.

It's worth noting that 2022 saw the highest number of shootings in Berkeley since 2017 (the earliest year data are readily available).

Read more about shootings in Berkeley.

In 2022, three people were killed in shootings in Berkeley. Aside from the officer-involved shootings in 2023, none of Berkeley's shootings last year were fatal.

Also worth noting: Berkeley has already had one injury shooting in 2024. Last year, that did not happen until March.

Berkeley shootings in 2024: The definitive gunfire map
As of Jan. 7, Berkeley has had one shooting in 2024 with one person wounded. Last year, no one was wounded until March.

Bookmark The Scanner's 2024 gunfire map for the latest info.

Other violent crimes also fell or were flat in Berkeley last year

Berkeley had one homicide in 2023 compared to three the prior year.

Jonah Roper was accused of fatally stabbing his mother, 60-year-old Maura Ghizzoni, at her home on Overlook Road in September.

Read more about the Overlook Road homicide case.

Felony assaults were down 3%, from 214 in 2022 to 207 last year.

Misdemeanor assaults rose from 497 reports to 569, while domestic violence reports were flat, with about 245 each year.

According to the Transparency Hub, several other crimes trended down or were flat last year.

Most significantly, catalytic converter thefts saw a major reduction, going from a high of 847 in 2022 down to 457 last year, the lowest number since these thefts jumped from fewer than 200 in 2019 to nearly 600 in 2020.

Berkeley catalytic converter thefts by year, 2017-2024. Source: BPD Transparency Hub

Police also recovered fewer guns last year than in the year prior.

In 2022, BPD recovered 115 firearms, including 43 unserialized "ghost" guns. Last year, BPD seized 75 guns, 19 of which were ghost guns.

Berkeley guns seized by year, 2016-2024. Source: BPD Transparency Hub

Hate crime and hate incident reports in Berkeley have been essentially flat over the past three years, with an average of 38 reports each year.

Anti-Black hate crime or hate incident reports were the most common category in both years, with 12 in 2022 and 11 last year.

Anti-Jewish hate crimes or hate incident reports rose from three in 2022 to eight last year, becoming the second most common category.

The third most common category was anti-LGBTQ hate crimes or hate incidents, which fell from 10 in 2022 to six last year.

(Editor's Note: We confirmed after publication that the hate crime data was last updated Nov. 14 so the full-year numbers may still shift slightly.)

Berkeley police calls for service in 2023

Calls for service fell significantly in Berkeley during the pandemic and remain much lower than pre-COVID levels.

In 2019, Berkeley police had about 76,000 calls for service, in line with prior years.

In 2023, that number was closer to 64,000 calls for service, up from about 62,000 the prior year.

One of the biggest changes in calls for service in Berkeley since 2019 has been in officer-initiated calls, which made up 16% of BPD calls for service that year, or about 12,100 calls for service.

In 2022, there were just 4,500 or so officer-initiated calls for service (7% of the total). That rose last year to about 5,100 calls for service (8% of the total).

In 2022, 1,342 of BPD's calls for service involved homelessness as well as mental illness, according to the Transparency Hub. Last year, that number rose to 1,440.

In 2022, about 5,100 of BPD's calls for service involved homeless or mental illness. That number rose slightly last year, to nearly 5,200.

Berkeley police stops in 2023

Berkeley police stopped fewer people in 2023 than they did the prior year.

In 2022, BPD stopped nearly 6,200 people. That fell to 5,300 people in 2023, a 14% decrease, according to the Transparency Hub.

Pedestrian stops saw the biggest drop, falling from about 2,300 in 2022 to 1,500 or so last year.

Unsurprisingly, that resulted in fewer arrests last year, with 877 in 2023 down from 1,325 in 2022. That's a 34% drop.

Use-of-force incidents resulting in the use of a weapon, injury or a complaint of pain rose from about 29 in 2022 (involving 34 people) to 33 last year (involving 43 people).

The search rate fell from 20% in 2022 to 14% in 2023, and the contraband recovery rate fell from 49% to 43%.

BPD also recovered fewer weapons during police stops last year, with 107 in 2022 compared to 82 in 2023.

Overall, the "yield rate" — when Berkeley police stops led to an arrest, citation or contraband recovery — remained about the same each year: close to 80% in both 2022 and 2023, according to the Transparency Hub.

What changes may be coming for policing in Berkeley?

In the coming months, BPD is likely to have more resources available for some types of investigations following the approval by the City Council last year of Flock license plate readers and surveillance cameras.

We are also waiting to see the results of an analysis that sought to determine how many police officers BPD actually needs.

BPD is also looking at a dispatch center overhaul at some point in the future.

The city will also be reporting this year on its work to launch the Specialized Care Unit, an alternative non-police response to nonviolent crisis calls.

Berkeley SCU, a crisis team without cops, starts Tuesday
Dial 510-948-0075 to reach the Specialized Care Unit, a new team slated to serve anyone in Berkeley in need of free crisis support.

If you're interested in BPD data, find more, including raw data sets, on the department's Transparency Hub.