Berkeley Police Department increases patrols because of recent gun violence

Zach Ryan/Staff

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After South Berkeley saw a series of shootings in the last week, the Berkeley Police Department has increased patrols in the area to apprehend suspects and respond more quickly to similar incidents moving forward.

Three recent shootings in the area have resulted in four victims, three with non-life-threatening gunshot injuries and one homicide. One of the shootings occurred on Sunday after BPD issued an advisory Friday stating that it would increase patrols near Sacramento Street and Ashby Avenue.

BPD spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel said it is too early to determine whether the recent shootings are related. According to BPD Officer Byron White, however, the string of shootings is not gang-centric.

“Our detectives are going to be on those (cases) immediately,” Frankel said. “When a number of these incidents occur, traditionally, we have increased staffing levels … to be a visual deterrent and to respond more swiftly should more incidents occur.”

On Sept. 21, a teenage boy was checked into a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after reported gunfire near Sacramento and Russell streets. The next day, on Sept. 22, Iganacio Francis Jr. was shot and killed — the second confirmed homicide this year on the 1800 block of Fairview Street. Then, on Sunday night, BPD responded to two gunshot wound victims near the intersection of King Street and Alcatraz Avenue.

To date, there have been 17 shootings and two homicides this year in Berkeley, Frankel said, adding that there was only one homicide last year.

In the advisory sent Friday, BPD stated that the week’s shootings appear to have involved two groups shooting at each other. The three shootings, White said, were not gang disputes over territory but likely involved disputes over money, romantic partners or disrespect on social media. Both White and Frankel added that these shootings were not random but isolated and specific conflicts.

“What we do know is that these reported shootings involve a very small amount of people, and they’re not random,” White said. “It’s difficult to tie them all together. A lot of people have been quick to say it’s a gang issue, but it’s really more complex.”

Gregory Symons, a close friend of 19-year-old Francis Jr., said Francis Jr. was not in a gang but focused on school. Symons said he was planning to meet Francis Jr. when he got a call from a friend saying Francis Jr. had died.

“We lost a brother,” Symons said. “We all need to get together and do a crimewatch — community watch-based so we all know we’re safe, and we don’t have to worry about these types of things.”

White said community members should contact the Homicide Unit at 510-981-5741 immediately if a conflict is likely to escalate to violence.

“If you see something, say something,” White said. “We want to know about these issues before it gets to violence. Don’t hesitate to give a call.”

Contact Malini Ramaiyer at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @malinisramaiyer.