UC Berkeley launches new security campaign for neighborhood south of campus

By Jesus Mena, Public Affairs

BERKELEY - In an effort to improve neighborhood safety in the area just south of campus, University of California, Berkeley, officials have launched a multi-faceted security campaign.

The bold effort includes deploying additional UC Berkeley police officers to the south side, expanding escort services, improving lighting and installing additional UC emergency telephones in the area.

The campaign, which is expected to cost UC Berkeley more than $350,000, was approved by Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl.

Preliminary figures show that robberies in the south campus area increased by 59 percent in 1998 when compared to 1997, and 115 percent when compared to 1996. This increase occurred despite a decline in violent crime in the city of Berkeley as a whole.

"Safety is a primary concern for our neighbors on the south side of our campus as well as for the students who reside there," said Berdahl. "We are taking a number of steps that, in partnership with the city of Berkeley, will make the area a safer place."

The campaign Berdahl announced includes:

o Deploying four additional UC Berkeley police officers to the Telegraph Avenue/south campus area.

o Increasing UC Berkeley police patrol of campus area parking lots during nights and weekends.

o Increasing the number of UC Berkeley Community Service Officers who escort individuals to their cars or nearby homes during the evening.

o Adding two UC Berkeley police vans that will provide door-to-door escort service for students who do not live in university housing. The vans will run between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

o Launching a marketing and advertising campaign that informs the public of the new safety efforts and puts criminals on notice.

o Placing emergency phones in areas of particular concern in terms of safety.

o Trimming trees and foliage in key areas to ensure that criminal activity will not be hidden from view.

o Improving lighting along pedestrian walkways.

o Increasing police surveillance at People's Park and making environmental improvements at the park, including increased lighting and tree trimming.

UC Berkeley Police Chief Victoria Harrison said, "These resources added to our current Cal-B-Safe Program will make the southside a much safer place for students and neighborhood residents."

Harrison said a major source of the crime on the south side is People's Park, which has had an increase in criminal activity in 1998 over previous years, including an increase in violent crime and drug dealing. Last year there were four robberies, two attempted rapes and two aggravated assaults at the park. Violent crimes in People's Park accounted for slightly more than 25 percent of all violent crimes reported to UC Berkeley police.

The free clothing box at the park has been identified by police, neighbors and park users as a source of illegal drug activity. Individuals gather around the box to conduct drug-dealing transactions and some sell the donated clothing to area shops - using the proceeds to fund their drug or alcohol habits.

The campus recently received a letter from a group called Safe Streets Now, which represents local residents and merchants, demanding that the campus take immediate steps to remove drug dealing from the park. The campus plans to remove the free box in the near future, while supporting better alternatives to distribute clothing to the homeless and needy.

Irene Hegarty, director of Community Relations at UC Berkeley, said that individuals who want to help the homeless can donate clothing to the "barrel" program, run by the Ecumenical Chaplaincy to the Homeless, with collection points at several local churches.

UC Berkeley supports several programs that provide food, shelter and health care assistance for the poor and homeless. A list of additional efforts by the campus to help the poor is available upon request.

Campus officials are encouraging the public to consider more productive ways to help the homeless. Some of those alternative methods have been posted on a flier at People's Park.

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