Night safety at UC Berkeley must improve its programs

Caragh McErlean/Senior Staff

Crime alert emails are familiar to UC Berkeley students: they pop up every once in a while in your inbox to make sure that campus police keep you informed on crimes such as robbery, sexual assault or homicide. These emails typically arrive a few hours after the crime occurred.

This all sounds good, but these emails and related safety services are not helpful because crime could be occurring at that moment.

If you are a student at UC Berkeley, you have experienced the frightening emails from the University of California Police Department popping up in your inbox and you’ve ended up reading it in a cold sweat because you were right there on that same street when a terrible crime happened next to you.

Take the example of one of the recent deadly crimes sent to our UC Berkeley student inboxes. Based on the UCPD crime alert email, on Sunday, May 28, 2017, at 8:30 a.m., an assault with a deadly weapon occurred in People’s Park, which is only about six minutes’ walk from the south entrance of the UC Berkeley campus.

Even though we are students, the information we got was late and blurry. The only thing we acknowledged from the email was that a victim got hit on the back of the head with a skateboard in the morning and the suspect was not caught. Students received this information in their inboxes on May 29, a day after the crime happened.

There are dorms and apartments and restaurants surrounding People’s Park. The point is that despite the number of students around the People’s Park area when the deadly crime happened, students received the alert a day later. The late alert emails do not help students avoid being around the crime scene, putting students’ safety in danger.

The campus, however, does provide free night safety services to students: the night shuttle, BearWalk and the door-to-door shuttle. The Night Safety Shuttle operates from 7:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. throughout the campus and up to the Downtown Berkeley area. The BearWalk service is a night service that students can call to have a staff member accompany them when walking a short distance, and their serveries end at 2:30 a.m. The door-to-door service is similar to Uber, except that operates only from 3 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and is free of charge.

These services all sound good, but there are still problems. The shuttle is never on schedule, and the BearWalk staff and door-to-door services come 30 minutes after you call. So, you might end up standing out in the dark at night anyway and know whether the service is coming soon or not.

Based on data released by the UCPD, there have been 172 crimes just in the past month. Larceny was the most common crime, followed by motor vehicle theft. Assault crimes are the third most common, directly affecting student’s personal safety.

According to the College Factual website, the UC Berkeley campus and the surrounding area are less safe than average in colleges across the United States. The overall safety rate is D+ for UC Berkeley, and this is based on on-campus, city and regional crime compared with other schools nationwide.

UC Berkeley has the highest crime rate per students among all other schools in the University of California system. It is time for us to think about how to improve our own safety and the safety of our school.

To have a better approach, the UCPD can collaborate with students by making an online system so anyone who witnessed a crime happen can put it on the community website, which will notify all other students to avoid going to that area.

Also, the night safety services that the campus provide are great but the school should monitor these services better to make sure students who called the services don’t have to wait that long at night.

In the end, the campus alert system and the safety services are great ideas to ensure the safety of UC Berkeley students. However, there are ways to improve these alert systems and services so we as students don’t need to worry too much about our own safety and enjoy the great education programs we have at UC Berkeley.

Iris (ChiCheng) Chong is a fourth-year environmental economics and policy major and journalism minor.

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  • Bob Bell

    Love the jazz hands in the cartoon.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    Beefing up night safety programs is putting a Band-Aid on a sucking chest wound. People’s Park needs to be shut down.

    • BerkeleyMews

      People’s Park is sacred ground to Berkeley. Most people shut their eyes to what goes on there, and refuse to connect it with campus safety. They will say that it is not the homeless who are the threat but other bogeymen. This is a disservice to students, but it is what it is.

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