User:Introvert, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons
By Michael Verna
BERKELEY- Crime rates are rising in Berkeley, impacting UC Berkeley students on and off campus. Compared to other college campuses, UC Berkeley is listed as the 1st in unfounded crimes, 4th highest in criminal offenses, and 6th in violence against women, but only 21st in arrests.
In March, the university made news headlines when a man set himself ablaze during a mental crisis and later died from his injuries.
The same month, a group of Cal students were filming a school project at the Fourth Street shopping district and were robbed at gunpoint. The area, located near the Berkeley Marina, is an up-scale shopping district with higher-end retailers and restaurants. According to reports, ten students were ambushed by a Nissan sedan carrying four masked individuals wielding firearms. It’s estimated that 10,000 dollars of filming equipment was taken from the students.
In another incident that week, a Blue Bottle barista and a bystanding Cal student were attacked. This coffee chain gives unhoused individuals a free cup of coffee daily. After receiving his first cup and being asked to leave, a man struck a barista three times. He then exited the Blue Bottle coffee house only to hit a Cal student. This man has been arrested 17 times by the UCPD, including for a stabbing, and has five separate convicted misdemeanors. The district attorney’s office has charged the man with two counts of misdemeanor battery.
Disturbing safety concerns also come from an attempted kidnapping that happened in late January next to campus. In broad daylight, a man grabbed a woman and threatened to assault her sexually; while the victim escaped to a nearby coffee shop, the attacker proceeded onto campus. Video footage shows students attempting to avoid the man, who seems to be harassing students by yelling and making erratic movements toward them.
Between 2021-2022, Berkeley PD has seen an increase in robberies. Property crimes are up 14.5%, and violent crimes have increased by over 25%. Violent crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assaults. Hate crimes also have risen from 8 in 2019 to 42 in 2021, with most victims being targeted for their race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation of their identity.
As crime rises, the Berkeley Police Department has seen a reduction in its forces through fewer police officers. Berkeley PD is authorized for 181 officers and only has around 150 officers. Consequently, Berkeley students feel the effects of the rising crime while seeing a remarkable reduction in law enforcement.
Michael Verna is a writer for the Vanguard at Berkeley’s Social Justice Desk