Berkeley City Council to discuss gun violence prevention

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The implementation of security cameras across 13 possible Berkeley locations would cost between $500,000 and $1 million.

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The Berkeley City Council will discuss two items Tuesday night focused on preventing gun violence, according to the City Council agenda.

The first item — authored by Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani and co-sponsored by Mayor Jesse Arreguín — would authorize the installation of security cameras at several intersections throughout the city. The second item, also authored by Kesarwani and co-sponsored by Arreguín and Councilmember Cheryl Davila, would provide $40,000 to reinstate the city’s Gun Buyback Program.

“Violence has no place in Berkeley, and we need to take action to address the surge in gun violence we have witnessed throughout the region,” Arreguín said in an email. “A couple of weeks ago we approved Operation Ceasefire to assemble a Berkeley-centered interjurisdictional working group of community members, law enforcement personnel, and supportive service providers to address gun violence and work with at-risk youth.”

The implementation of security cameras across 13 possible locations would cost between $500,000 and $1 million, according to a report submitted by Kesarwani and Arreguín. The report cited an increase in the number of shootings in Berkeley over the past three years, including four fatal incidents in 2020, as one reason to implement new security cameras.

While the use of security cameras has the potential to reduce crime in the city, Councilmember Susan Wengraf noted that some residents might have concerns regarding privacy. According to the report, the security cameras would be used to collect information on suspects leaving the scene of a crime and reduce the dependence on private security cameras owned by residents and businesses.

“Security cameras are a very big outlay of money and I’m not sure how effective they will be in remedying gun violence,” Wengraf said. “I know that people are paranoid of excessive surveillance and some residents are concerned, but if it has been proven to be effective I will vote for it.”

The Gun Buyback Program was initially proposed by Davila and authorized by City Council back in November 2018. According to a report submitted by Davila, Arreguín and Kesarwani, the reinstatement of the program would offer residents cash or gift cards with the aim of removing guns from households.

Wengraf added that the buyback program would not cost the city much money, but also may not be as effective as predicted. Gun buyback programs are most effective in influencing public perception and reducing gun-related deaths, according to the item’s report, when they are paired with other gun violence reduction programs.

“I’m not sure that these two items are the two most effective things to do, but at least we are doing something to move towards solving this crisis given everything that’s happened in recent times,” Wengraf said. “There are just too many guns in the city and they are far too easy to obtain.”

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.