BERKLEY — In a community the size of Berkley, the sight of residents walking from their homes to the grocery store or drug store, and to any of the numerous downtown businesses and restaurants, isn’t anything uncommon.
But when Berkley Public Safety Deputy Chief Robert North sees residents walking around and going about their daily business, he sees a leading factor in what keeps everyone in Berkley safe.
According to Movoto Real Estate, an online real estate broker, Berkley is one of the safest cities in Michigan, coming in at fifth on the list.
“We have a walking community, and on any street, you can see people walking with their children, running or walking the dogs and exercising with a group,” North said. “We have people that are homeowners and have families, and people feel comfortable enough to walk in this community. Plus, they are observant citizens, so they call in if they see something, and they are keeping an eye on things so they can notify an officer, if need be.”
In compiling the list, Movoto looked at FBI crime statistics from 2012 that came from cities with a population of 10,000 or more. With the list narrowed down to 102 cities, Movoto took into account violent crimes, such as rape and murder, property crimes, like theft or burglary, and the chance that a resident will be a victim of a crime.
Movoto put a bigger emphasis on violent crime, which accounted for 50 percent of a city’s ranking, followed by property crimes at 30 percent and the chance of being a victim making up 20 percent.
Berkley, which has just more than 15,000 residents, had 141 crimes reported that met Movoto’s criteria. Of those, 132 were property crimes, meaning only nine were violent crimes, with a majority of those being aggravated assault.
Ultimately, Movoto determined that Berkley residents had a one in 107 chance of being the victim of a violent or property crime.
“It has to do with our city services and having a very vibrant and involved community,” North said of the ranking. “We have very involved and concerned residents, and a very vibrant business community, and we offer great programs and services through the city.”
The Berkley Public Safety Department has 28 sworn public safety officers on staff, with every officer being cross-trained for patrol and firefighter duties.
“We have a response time for emergencies of three minutes or less, and we have patrol cars out all of the time engaging in traffic enforcement,” North said. “We are always doing follow-ups, so our investigative staff is always busy, and we engage other departments, if necessary. It takes a lot of hard work and effort by our public safety officers to make a safe community happen.”
Grosse Ile Township was named the safest city in Michigan, with 89 crimes reported in 2012. Bloomfield Township ranked seventh, West Bloomfield Township tied for eighth and Rochester rounded out the top 10.
Benton Harbor was named the most dangerous of the 102 cities that were ranked, as 1,100 crimes were reported with 236 of those crimes being violent crimes in a city with just more than 10,000 residents. Movoto determined Benton Harbor residents had a one in nine chance of becoming the victim of a crime.
Berkley Mayor Phil O’Dwyer echoed North’s sentiment that having residents out and about in the community helps reduce the crimes that take place. An involved community does wonders in helping the public safety officers, O’Dwyer said.
“Berkley is a walkable community, and when residents are out walking, they observe things, and anything that looks odd or unusual or incompatible with the tranquility of the community, they notify a public safety officer,” he said. “Residents have told me that if they have an occasion to call the Public Safety Department, an officer is there within a minute and a half, and that is something that we are all really proud of.”
While collaboration with residents and neighboring communities helps Berkley stay safe, O’Dwyer said it all starts with the work of the Public Safety Department.
“Berkley has a first-class Public Safety Department, and we have dedicated officers committed to maintaining a safe community,” he said. “Because of their rapid response and prevention efforts, crime is negligible in the city. They work hard to make it happen, as it just doesn’t happen, but they also have the confidence of the community, and our residents are enormously proud of our officers.”
For more information on the Movoto study, visit www.movoto.com/blog/top-ten/safest-places-in-michigan.
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