Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Property Crime


How are beat boundaries determined?

Beat boundaries are determined by concentration of workload including crimes, alarms, traffic enforcement, domestic disputes, and other situations.  Larger beats generally have less crime and fewer incidents requiring police response.


What time do most home burglaries occur?

During the daytime when people are at work.   Burglars will often knock first to see if anyone is home.


What should we do to secure our home before leaving for a holiday?


Is it risky to leave a FastTrack device visible in the car? 

Not that the police are aware of.


Why are alarms ineffective?

Car alarms go off too often and don’t really inspire anyone to call the police.

Home alarms can be a good deterant if posted outside, but are only effective if someone will actually call the alarm into police.  Be sure to guard against false alarms.


If I’m calling about suspicious behavior, do I call 911 or 981-5900?

If you have any suspicion of a crime in progress, or if it’s an emergency call 911 or from your cell phone call 981-5911.  If you are unsure, call  981-5900.   Remember that both calls go to the same dispatcher.


Should young people answer the door when home alone?

No one should open the door to a stranger when they are home alone.  Be sure to either answer through the door, or make some noise in order to let the person know someone is home.


What about police dispatchers who seem to make value judgments during a call?

Callers can easily mistake the dispatcher’s request for detail as “questioning” their viewpoint.   Dispatchers want to be sure to have all the possible information for the police when they arrive on the scene.  Remember that while one dispatcher is talking to you, another is actually dispatching the police.  It may be beneficial to the reporting officer to keep you on the phone to answer any specific questions evident at the scene.


Occasionally I hear someone scream in the middle of the night.  Just one scream.  I cannot tell where it is coming from.  What should I do?

Call the police.  Other neighbors may be calling as well.


What is the difference between a burglary and a “home invasion?”

A burglary occurs when no one is home and property is stolen.  A home invasion is a robbery in the victim’s home.  These are very rare and are usually drug related.


Do property crime offendesr advance to violent crimes?

Rarely.  There are approximately ten times more property crimes than violent crimes.  Property crimes are often crimes of opportunity (open windows, unlocked doors and windows).


Why is the closure rate on crimes in Alameda County so low?

Most crimes are property crimes and are very difficult to solve because they are reported after the fact with little evidence left behind.


What is the best thing to do if car stereos are stolen repeatedly?

Change parking spots.  Install systems that are either removable or with a removable face.  Be sure to take the face with you – do NOT leave it in the glove compartment or the console.


Do beat officers patrol ALL the streets in their beat on a given shift?

Probably not.  Police will give high priority to crime hot spots determined by recent crime reports.  Public parks are generally hot spots on Friday and Saturday nights.  But there are enough officers on duty to report to a call quickly.


How do I hear about crime alerts?

Officer Pierantoni has an e-mail list through which he distributes crime alerts and other announcements.  E-mail a request to:   or call at 510-981-5773.


Did Berkeley Police catch the North Berkeley Rapist from summer of 2008?

No, but there have been no further crimes attributed to that series.  The perpetrator has stopped, left town, or been arrested elsewhere.  The BPD utilized extensive resources from within their department and from other jurisdictions to attempt to apprehend this person.  The concentrated police response may have convinced him to leave the area.


Is camera surveillance effective for auto break-ins?

Cameras are effective only when images are captured in daylight, at the right angle and if they are being constantly monitored.  They do work in some limited situations, but for BPD it is a resource issue.  They are too expensive for the return on investigations.


Where are the “hot spots” in the hills and how do you work with the community to address them?

“Hot spots” are determined by concentrations of calls for service from residents in a specific area and identified in the Daily Crime Bulletin.  Beat officers check the DCB regularly and do increase patrols in these areas.


Is Grotto Park a “hot spot?”

Generally all parks are considered potential hot spots on Friday and Saturday nights.


Are there clues to distinguish between “homeless” behavior (procuring food & shelter) and criminal activity?

Police are very careful not to criminalize the homeless, so they focus on specific behaviors and if they are lawful or not.  Aggressive, threatening panhandling is illegal and the  police welcome its being reported  at the time and place it occurs.  After-the-fact reporting is very difficult to prove.  (Note:  By state law arrests for misdemeanors can only be made by an eye-witness, so if the police officer did not see the midemeanor, the complainant will have to make a citizen’s arrest with the officer’s assistance.)


What are the Department’s plans for a major disaster or terrorist attack?

There is a citywide response plan in place that includes all City employees including police.  The Office of Emergency Services is run out of the Fire Department, and will be offering expanded citizen prep classes and resources later this year because of extra community resources from the recently passed tax Measure GG (2008). 


Is Berkeley a soft target for out-of-town thieves?

Approximately 50% of the arrests made for property crimes are of non-Berkeley residents.


What is in the BPD repository of stolen goods?  How can theft victims retrieve stolen goods?

There isn’t that much in the repository, but what is there is catalogued by incident.  Victims who want to retrieve stolen goods need to either refer to a specific case number or have the serial numbers or a good photograph (for jewelry) of stolen items.  Things that can’t be ID’d by number should be stored in a safe or another secure area in the house.


What is the relationship between BPD and UC Police?

UC’s jurisdiction is 1 mile beyond the perimeter of the campus.  Berkeley receives no regular financial support from UC for police activities, but there is a specific working agreement with clear jurisdictions and they do work together often.  During UC athletic events, BPD receives paid overtime from UC for traffic control.  UC Police handles other issues related to the event.