Days after a quadruple shooting on Telegraph Avenue that left a divinity school student dead, the University of California has hired a private security firm to patrol the neighborhood south of campus near several UC Berkeley dormitories.
The decision followed pressure from parents who have been organizing since late September to push Cal to do more to boost neighborhood safety following a series of disturbing reports over the past month or so — even before the deadly shooting.
One thing parents asked for was private security patrols. At least for now, it appears they have them.
On Thursday, campus officials told parents they had "just signed an agreement for additional security through a third-party private vendor." The Berkeley Scanner followed up to learn more.
On Monday, Cal told The Scanner it had hired San Francisco-based Treeline Security, which is "comprised of sworn and retired law enforcement, active military, professional security experts, and event and project management consultants," according to the firm's website.
Private patrols near UC Berkeley on duty for at least a month
Cal told The Scanner that Treeline would be on board "on a temporary basis until more permanent UC Berkeley staff are identified and hired."
Patrols began Friday around Units 1, 2 and 3 in the Southside neighborhood on Durant Avenue and Haste Street, according to UC Berkeley.
Concerns were particularly high among the residents of Unit 3, a high-rise complex at 2650 Durant Ave., who witnessed the aftermath of the Oct. 8 shooting.
The shooting, which took place on Telegraph Avenue just south of Durant Avenue, around the corner from Unit 3, was the worst Berkeley has seen in decades in terms of scope and violence.
UC Berkeley said the Treeline security patrols would operate daily from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. for "at least one month and possibly longer."
According to Treeline's website, it "provides professional uniformed and plain clothes security and protection services. Continuous security service and staffing are provided at fixed and mobile sites throughout California and the nation."
The firm also offers threat management, investigative work, community outreach and a range of related services.
Cal said it is also working to hire two more officers at the University of California Police Department as well as more security monitors — trained students who work in the residence halls — and community service officers (CSOs): trained students employed by UCPD who serve the entire campus, including through its BearWalk night safety program.
Until that happens, Treeline "will monitor outside the residence halls, observe and report, and work closely with UCPD on security issues," Cal told The Berkeley Scanner this week.
UC Berkeley said it now has 75 new security monitors on board or in the hiring process, up from just 12 at the start of the semester, and hopes to grow its CSO program from 57 to as many as 120 students.
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Mayor focuses on police reforms in public safety remarks
Last week, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín told concerned Cal parents who called in during Tuesday night's City Council meeting that the safety of the Telegraph Avenue neighborhood where the shooting happened was "our top priority."
Two days later in his State of the City address, however, Arreguín did not highlight campus safety, according to tweets of his remarks that his office posted online during the event.
Instead, Arreguín spoke Thursday about a recent shooting in North Oakland that killed two brothers from Berkeley High and sent "shockwaves throughout our community."
Arreguín also discussed the city's $1 million investment in violence prevention programs as well as his plans to launch a new Department of Community Safety "that would coordinate the dispatch, resource allocation, operations and reforms."
Those reforms are slated to include a new team dubbed the Specialized Care Unit (SCU), which would respond instead of armed police to calls involving people struggling with mental health and drug-related crises.
The SCU has been years in the making but has not yet hit the street.
"Keeping our community safe also goes beyond fighting crime," Arreguín said, according to the live tweets his staff posted. "Mental illness, addiction and homelessness are not crimes, but these public health and social issues can make people feel less safe. We are working to address long standing challenges as we look to the future."
Meanwhile, Berkeley Police Department staffing continues to hover at a"historic low" of about 127 officers available for patrol.
The City Council fully funded the department in June, but the city has been unable to keep pace with the number of police who continue to retire or leave for other agencies — or get anywhere near the 178 officer positions it is authorized to hire.
City staff and police have said the large staffing gap is due in part to a nationwide crisis affecting first responders and municipal workers in general, as well as more local issues such as the perception by Berkeley officers that there is a lack of support for them at City Hall.