Berkeley police, residents discuss recent shootings at public safety meeting

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Police stressed the importance of community involvement in maintaining public safety at a meeting held Monday night to discuss the two shootings that injured a total of six people in the city earlier this month.

At the meeting — which was held by Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore at the Berkeley Youth Alternatives Center in West Berkeley — Berkeley Police Department Officer Cesar Melero updated the community on the department’s investigation into the two incidents.

Melero said the police have determined the people involved in the incidents were not residents of the neighborhoods and that neither of the cases were gang-affiliated, though it has not been determined whether the two cases — which occurred just two days apart — are linked.

On March 2, shots were fired from a vehicle at a group of five standing in front of a Berkeley apartment building on the 2200 block of Bonar Street. Three of the men sustained gunshot wounds, none of which were life-threatening.

In the early hours of March 4, three men were injured on the 2100 block of 7th Street from gunshot wounds. According to police, two suspects had approached a group of five people, and at least one allegedly fired at the group. None of the victims’ injuries were life-threatening.

At the meeting, Berkeley police Lt. Dave Frankel said property owners in the area have been receptive to suggestions from the department to improve the safety of residents by obtaining no-trespass letters, which would allow police to make security checks and remove anyone who is found loitering on their properties.

Melero also suggested that owners could install gates in front of their properties and that apartment complex owners could hire a building manager who would be responsible for calling the police department if he or she saw any suspicious people or activity. He also emphasized the importance of residents reporting any suspicious activity they notice to police.

“If you hear a little voice in your head telling you that something is not right, then you are probably right,” Melero said. “Call us.”

In a speech at the meeting, Moore added that the city does not have the resources to put a police officer on every street corner to ensure the community’s safety.

“We all have to step up. We don’t want to have a policeman on every corner. Our interests go well beyond our property value, and that is a community that is safe and engaged,” he said.

However, during a question-and-answer portion of the program, several residents said the police need to make a more concentrated effort to get to know the kids and residents of the neighborhood so that they do not engage in illegal activities in the first place.

“The best way to stop a bullet is to get a job,” said Niculia Williams, executive director of Berkeley Youth Alternatives.

But Melero said that even if police knew the residents of the neighborhood, they still would not know all of the residents’ family and friends in the area.

“We may know some people, but we can’t know everyone,” Melero said.

Still, long-time neighborhood resident Art Williams said the police do not show up when residents call them to report suspicious activities or people.

“The police lied about doing their job. They take forever to come, and when they do come, they harass people,” Williams said.

According to Williams, recent police efforts to step up surveillance and maintain a constant presence in the neighborhood is what they “should have done a long time ago.”

Moore said he hopes the meeting will result in the formation of neighborhood watch groups.