Officers from the Berkeley Police Department and UCPD began teaming up Monday to patrol Telegraph Avenue in an effort to reduce crime and increase the general sense of the street’s safety.
The patrols — which will consist of one officer from BPD and one from UCPD — will walk or bike down Telegraph on afternoons and evenings six days a week, according to a city of Berkeley press release.
“The number of assaults in the campus area is higher than in the rest of the city, so it’s really critical to have officers visible,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes Telegraph. “It sends a message that people care about this neighborhood, and we have our eyes on you, so don’t do these disgusting things.”
According to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, the patrol is meant to curtail complaints about issues like dogs, litter, urination, defecation, drug and alcohol use and fighting. Worthington said the officers on the patrol will not look to punitively punish minor infractions like jaywalking.
CalSERVE Senator Andrew Albright said he began lobbying last fall for the UCPD to help establish the patrol. While campaigning to become ASUC president in last month’s general election, Albright said the possibility of a police presence on Telegraph received positive feedback from students.
“Southside can be a really dangerous part of the city, so it really resonated with people,” Albright said.
The establishment of the patrol comes at a time when the city is expecting an increase in foot traffic to coincide with warmer weather. According to Kusmiss, the issues on Telegraph are cyclical, and warm weather “brings an increase in challenges.”
In addition, Worthington said the city also sees an increase in out-of-state visitors who may require police guidance or may not know the established rules and limitations.
However, Worthington added that the issue has been ongoing and that the patrol was not established in response to an increase in complaints.
Trial programs for patrols on Telegraph have been effective in the past but not sustained because of budgetary constraints, according to Worthington. He cited the partnership between the two police departments as the reason the current program will not succumb to the same problem.
Kusmiss said that BPD will not incur any greater cost as a result of assigning officers to the patrol because BPD already has two bicycle officers assigned to the Telegraph area.
“If (the city of Berkeley) had to pay for both officers, we probably wouldn’t do it,” Worthington said. “Having one and one is a perfectly logical combo because most people who are victims of crime in the area are related to the university in some way.”
Christopher Yee is an assistant news editor.