At the Starry Plough Pub on Saturday afternoon, Mayor Jesse Arreguín and District 3 City Councilmember Ben Bartlett hosted a meeting to address increased crime in South Berkeley.
During the meeting, which was called “Tactics,” 150 people from South Berkeley and other neighborhoods discussed ideas to address increased violent crime, particularly armed robberies, in the neighborhood around the Ashby BART station. Over the past year, crime — both violent and nonviolent — has gone up by 10 percent in the Ashby BART area and other South Berkeley neighborhoods, according to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel.
“The goal of the meeting was to make it clear to the community that we are very alarmed about the number of violent crime and assaults that (have) happened in South Berkeley and all over Berkeley and that it’s the government’s priority to address this issue,” Arreguín said.
The event was intended to bring people together people from different parts of the city to communicate and encourage Berkeley residents to work together to make their neighborhood safer, Arreguín said. At the meeting, Bartlett and Arreguín fielded community members’ concerns and presented the city’s plans to address violent crime.
During the meeting, two instructors from the self-defense school Krav Maga Xtreme demonstrated scenarios of people being attacked or threatened. They were accompanied by the school’s owner Gaby Gliksman, who explained which self-defense tactics to use in different scenarios. Gliksman said he wanted to promote awareness of how to avoid, de-escalate and escape confrontation.
“Anybody is able to defend themselves … (but) I don’t want people to fight if they don’t know how to fight,” Gliksman said. “And even if you know how to fight, it’s not always the right thing to do.”
Gliksman explained that it is better to cooperate if attackers are only demanding a person’s money or cell phone. He added that he wanted to create “mental awareness and mental understanding of what to do and what not to do.”
Arreguín and Bartlett are currently working on a plan to address violent crime and are in contact with the chief of police to create a BPD violent crime suppression unit.
Other aspects of the plan include increasing lighting, especially around the Ashby BART station, and fostering city collaboration with BART Police Department and neighborhood watch programs. Arreguín said the city is also considering increasing patrols and developing a registry for all surveillance cameras in Berkeley.
Arreguín said that he cannot yet say when the plan will be implemented but that he hopes to start the program in the next month.
“Crime happens in isolation and fear. One of the things we can do is reject isolation, reject fear,” Bartlett said at the meeting. “Instead of isolation, we come together. We communicate. We befriend one another. We look out for each other.”