City of Berkeley, UC Berkeley officials plan to improve public safety

File Photo of Berkeley's City Hall.
Jenna Wong/File
The Berkeley City Council discusses citywide issues such as public safety and budget reallocation.

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Berkeley City Council continues to discuss ways to address public safety amid recent crimes involving guns in the city of Berkeley, including the death of UC Berkeley student Seth Smith.

The incidents of gun violence along with nationwide calls to defund police have resulted in conversations about altering methods of ensuring public safety, both within UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley. Although the city has multiple policies addressing gun violence, some UC Berkeley parents say more should be done.

“No community in America is immune to gun violence and this past weekend was especially tragic all over the country,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an email. “Once again we are reminded that real steps must be taken to address gun violence.”

The city currently has measures in place to prevent gun violence, including a 2018 ordinance requiring firearms in residences to be stored in locked containers or disabled with a trigger lock, as well as a policy of divesting from gun manufacturers since 2013.

The City Council also passed the Gun Buyback and Art of Peace Program, through which gun owners are paid to turn in their firearms.

The city will continue with a buyback program, according to Arreguín.

Following Smith’s death, Christine Dull, a parent of a UC Berkeley student, wrote letters to Chancellor Carol Christ and Arreguín suggesting action to address public safety. Dull also said the campus should play a larger role in ensuring student safety.

“The majority of Cal students live off-campus, so the City of Berkeley is the students’ home and residence,” Dull said in an email. “More cooperation is needed between the University and the City of Berkeley to begin to find solutions.”

In a campuswide email sent June 18, Christ said she supported efforts to “reimagine alternative systems of community safety.”

Christ also addressed measures that the campus will take in an effort to improve public safety, including assessing UCPD tools and equipment in response to calls of demilitarization, as well as reassigning certain responsibilities of the police department.

The City Council approved a $9.045 million reduction in the Berkeley Police Department’s fiscal year 2021 budget June 30, and it allocated a portion of this money to improving public safety.

As the City Council considers ways of “re-imagining” public safety, it plans to maintain the ability to respond to and prevent violent crime, according to Arreguín.

“We want to prioritize shifting resources from calls involving non-violent situations, such as issues relating to mental health and code enforcement,” Arreguín said in the email. “This will allow us to invest resources into the community, such as youth programs and support for under-served communities which can lead to a further reduction in gun violence.”

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.