Campus sees increase in robberies, Berkeley community reacts

Photo of a BPD police car
Jacqueline Samsell/Staff
An uptick in street robberies has generated discussion surrounding personal safety and policing in the Berkeley community.

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Five robberies occurred in and around UC Berkeley within a span of 24 hours between Nov. 4 and 5, reflecting an increase in thefts and break-ins.

Sabrina Reich, UCPD spokesperson, noted that UCPD has been investigating the aforementioned robberies. While suspects have been arrested, the case remains under investigation.

“This is a trend we are seeing across the nation,” Reich said in an email. “Traditionally, during the fall season we have also seen an increase in street robberies.”

Statistics show the number of November robberies in 2021 has remained the same as in 2020, according to Reich. She added UCPD conducts “high visibility patrols,” and provides free night-safety services.

“We understand there have been concerns about the wait times for BearWALK night safety services, and we have been working diligently to recruit additional student Community Service Officers (CSOs), nearly doubling our BearWALK staffing so we can reduce wait times,” Reich said in an email.

Reich encouraged students to travel in groups, pay attention to their surroundings and keep electronics out of sight.

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Byron White said a majority of street robberies in the city have been of personal electronics such as cellphones and laptops. White noted the robberies often occur on dark streets and pathways.

According to Robin López, campus doctoral candidate, UCPD does not actually prevent crimes from taking place.

“We’ve seen at night that there were several armed robberies, all within close proximity to each other, all within the span of three to four hours,” López said. “UCPD did not prevent any of those from happening, nor does it seem like (they) deter the individual or individuals who were involved in committing these acts.”

López added that the funds going toward UCPD would be better spent installing more lighting in dark areas and providing better transportation, particularly for those who work late at night. He alleged that up until recently, multiple lights were non-functioning at Hilgard Hall, where López works.

According to López, there was an instance in which UCPD surrounded his vehicle and told him he “did not seem like (he) belonged there.” He was allegedly later denied a request for a written apology from the UCPD chief of police.

Jack Glaser, professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy and social psychologist, said police officers are influenced by racial stereotypes in their policing.

Currently researching racial profiling, Glaser noted he does not study campus police, but municipal police departments.

“(Police are) influenced by the ‘Black crime’ stereotype to disambiguate aspects of an individual’s behavior in a matter that is consistent with their preconceptions about their notions about that group,” Glaser said.

Christopher Ying is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @ChrisYingg.