For campus first-year Shazad Khan, gun violence had always been a distant idea. Khan said after moving from Singapore to Berkeley for college, gun violence was a newly discovered threat. It wasn’t something he expected until he witnessed the Durant Avenue and Telegraph Avenue shooting on Oct. 8, he said.
“We were at the bus stop,” Khan said. “The whole time I was thinking that could have been me. It is unrealistic but if we had left the party five minutes earlier we would have been right there.”
Recent incidents such as the shooting Khan saw have affected many Berkeley residents, as they have evoked fear, said City Councilmember Rigel Robinson. Yet, recent data from the Berkeley Police Department, or BPD, shows no increase in violence compared to last year, according to BPD spokesperson Byron White.
Khan said the shooting scared him. When he spoke with fellow campus students about his experience, he said they were shocked. He noted, however, that students seemed to return to normal shortly after the incident. Khan said this was worrisome, insisting it is not a problem students should be facing.
“Recent senseless acts of gun violence shows that even in an overwhelmingly safe community like Berkeley, the national epidemic of gun violence presents a danger to us all,” said Mayor Jesse Arréguin in an email.
According to White, current data shows that through the end of September, Berkeley has experienced 40 shootings, compared to 2021 where at this time of year, the city had 36 shootings. White noted that the most common cause of violence has been disputes between individuals.
Robinson said work has been done by the city and city councilmembers to make Berkeley safer, including implementing a new Telegraph bike patrol, new security cameras and Telegraph ambassadors who have been working to keep the neighborhood safe.
“We have taken significant steps in recent years to improve safety in the neighborhood,” Robinson said in an email. “None of that work, however, makes violent incidents like this any less frightening when they happen. Nobody should be afraid to walk home at night, and no parent should have to worry for the safety of their student.”
The most recent city budget has invested in the Ceasefire program, which promotes community-focused violence prevention by providing $1 million each year for the next two years, according to Arréguin. He said this program will be the combined effort of BPD, campus and the Berkeley community. According to Arréguin, the Ceasefire program will follow the model of programs in Oakland and other nearby jurisdictions.
Still, part of the problem of gun violence comes from the ability of BPD to respond, noted City Councilmember Sophie Hahn. Current staffing shortages exacerbate the issue of gun violence, Hahn said.
“For more than a decade the Council has funded police officers the City has never hired,” Hahn said in an email. “It’s time for our administration to prioritize filling these important positions so we can prevent and solve violent crimes.”