Berkeley Police Department, UCPD town hall addresses Northside crime spike

Brooke Whitney/Staff

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The overall number of reported crimes in the city has not increased, but Berkeley police say that Northside has experienced an uptick.

In response to a recent string of robberies, representatives from UCPD, Berkeley Police Department and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering held a town hall-style meeting to address safety and security concerns Friday.

About 50 students, faculty members and members of the public gathered in Sibley Auditorium. The event was organized by the UC Berkeley College of Engineering out of collective concern and in an effort to provide safety information to the community, according to Dean of Engineering Shankar Sastry.

“I see the emails and wonder, ‘Good grief, what’s happened now?’ ” said Loretta Morales, building coordinator for Haviland Hall, the site of a recent attempted robbery.

BPD Sgt. Peter Hong said the city normally experiences 30 to 40 robberies a month, with most concentrated Downtown or south of campus. From Oct. 8 to Oct. 12, however, multiple robberies occurred near Northside, with one taking place on campus, Hong said.

“We’re here today to let you know what’s been done,” Sastry said in his introduction to the town hall. “We take the security of the staff, of the community, very, very seriously.”

The panelists — Hong, City Councilmember Susan Wengraf, UCPD Capt. Lee Harris, UCPD crime prevention officer Wade MacAdam and the moderator, assistant dean of the College of Engineering Scott Shackleton — took turns sharing security advice and safety tips. Hong suggested people call BPD at 510-981-5911 because 911 can be unreliable.

Shackleton encouraged the audience to password protect their laptops and cellphones and backup their devices. Harris recommended that everyone take down the serial numbers, brand and distinguishing features of their personal items to help the police in case of a robbery.

“If you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts … especially when you’re alone,” Hong said during the meeting. “If somebody ever experiences … being held up — give it up. … Please just give it up.”

Samantha Lamos, a campus sophomore, brought up flickering lighting on Bancroft Way and Piedmont Avenue that she said made her uncomfortable on her way home.

With assistance from the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund, the ASUC, campus and the city of Berkeley are working together to potentially add some street lighting to the neighborhoods around campus.

Wengraf suggested calling the number 311 as a way to report any malfunctioning or broken city property.

Mehrdad Niknami, an EECS graduate student, suggested Cleary alerts show the most pertinent information — time and location — at the top of the message.

“I want to reiterate common sense,” Shackleton said at the meeting. “Don’t put yourself in a bad spot. Think about where you’re going to be at two in the morning.”

Wengraf had not been directly informed of the event and had learned of it from her husband, a UC Berkeley faculty member. Sastry invited Wengraf to participate on the panel when she arrived at the event.

“We need to work together on this,” Wengraf said. “We have to put out the word (that if) you come to Berkeley, you’re going to be caught.”

Contact Edward Booth at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.