Bothered by crime? Protest the war

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A recent Daily Californian article describes how Avontus Software, a small tech business, is moving out of Berkeley. The company, which moved to downtown Berkeley from Oakland in 2007, is leaving because of the high crime rate, which their CEO blames on the police being “forced…to deal with protests at the Marine recruiting center” two blocks away.

The story’s gotten some pickup in right-wing blogs, where eager commenters are hoping that this is the beginning of the end for Berkeley’s economy. (Berkeley’s anti-war chickens coming home to roost, as it were.)

I feel bad that Avontus or its employees may have been crime victims. However, blaming the “high crime rate” on the police’s having to deal with the protests seems to be at odds with reality: criminal incidents near Avontus’ office at 2140 Shattuck in Berkeley have apparently dropped by nearly 30% from 2007 to 2008.

Per Berkeley Crimelog, the number of crime incidents reported within one block of 2140 Shattuck over time was 359 in 2005, 382 in 2006, 321 in 2007, and 56 for Jan 1-Mar 29 2008 (about 230 annualized). That’s a 28% drop between total incidents in 2007 and annualized incidents for 2008.

To be extra-conservative, I assumed Crimelog may not have all March 2008 incidents on file, so I looked only at crimes with a block of Avontus’ office during January and February over the past four years. The result? A 29% drop between 2007 and 2008.

Why the big drop in crime near Avontus’ office in downtown Berkeley in 2008? We may need to thank the anti-recruitment protests two blocks away, which started in fall 2007 and escalated this year. Perversely, the police’s heavy local response to the protests may well be keeping downtown residents and businesses safer. (Bothered by crime in your neighborhood? Picket the military to get an instant boost in police presence.)

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Why would you only check crime for a 1 block radius of an address? What if these people live in Berkeley and walk to work, or park their cars several blocks away, or go to lunch? Also, people's perception of high crime is influenced by what they're used to at home. When checking crime stats you should compare stats with other neighborhoods, and especially the whole bay area.

Specifically mentioned in the article is 'property crime', which your data doesn't consider. You'll find that property crime in Berkeley is in the top 3 in the bay area and often times exceeds the property crime rate in Oakland and Richmond, which are both are awful neighborhoods. From what I can tell the guy seems smart.

You need to do your homework, you're manipulating the facts.

If you look at the February 2006 quarterly crime report (berkeley web site) you'll see that the property crime in berkeley far exceeds Richmond and Oakland, almost combined!

Probably not concidentally, this is the last time they stopped reporting this statistic.

Wow! I didn't realize that crime in Berzerkeley is so high. I can see why now.

It's pathetic that the city ignores a plea for help to fight crime, then allocates an additional $200k of police resources for an unrelated matter. Can't say I blame them for moving. The people that run the city are idiots.

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Anirvan Chatterjee is a San Francisco Bay Area tech geek and bibliophile.


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This page contains a single entry by Anirvan Chatterjee published on April 3, 2008 7:40 PM.

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