With certain crime trends on the rise this year, I am writing to let you know that the City Council will be voting at its meeting TOMORROW, Tues., Dec. 14 on whether to make important public safety investments.
Shootings are on the rise, and this violence disproportionately harms West and South Berkeley. Our city has experienced at least 48 confirmed gunfire calls to date in 2021, compared to 39 at this time in 2020, according to Berkeleyside (as of Dec. 9). In 2019, there were 28 shootings for the year.
Vehicle theft is also on the rise. At the Nov. 30 Council meeting, Police Chief Jen Louis stated that more than 1,000 vehicle thefts have occurred to date in 2021, compared to 805 cases for all of 2020. In 2019, there were 492 cases of vehicle theft.
In June 2022, the Council will consider the budget for next fiscal year, at which time there will likely be a robust discussion on restoring authorized police positions that were frozen to help close a $40 million budget deficit during the depths of the pandemic. For tomorrow’s Council meeting, there are three key public safety investments under consideration for Item #44 “FY 2021 Year-End and FY 2022 First Quarter Budget Update” –
SECURITY CAMERAS AND USE POLICY. Councilmember Terry Taplin and I have co-authored a Council item requesting the installation of security cameras at certain major arterial intersections that serve as entry and exit points to the City of Berkeley. This approach is recommended by our former and current police chiefs as an IMMEDIATE ACTION that can assist our police detectives in investigating shootings and bringing accountability, as perpetrators are often suspected to flee using arterial streets.
- – Security cameras installed at San Pablo Park have enabled arrests in shooting investigations and for other violent crimes. Police detectives commonly check these cameras—authorized by Council in Oct. 2018 after a daytime shooting in the park—for a suspect vehicle that may have passed through the area before or after a shooting. In recent months, our Police Chief shared with me that security camera footage from San Pablo Park supported the following cases, for example: (1) In Sept. 2021, footage was used to help identify an individual involved in a shooting investigation, with the individual arrested and the case pending in court; (2) In June 2021, footage was used to help identify the suspect involved in a shooting at San Pablo Park, with the individual arrested and the case pending in court; and (3) Also in June 2021, footage helped to identify a serial sex crime suspect, who has been arrested with the case pending in court. Because our police officers cannot be everywhere at all times, automated enforcement tools like security cameras are an important strategy to deter violent crime and bring accountability when shootings do occur. It’s also worth noting that the San Pablo Park cameras have assisted in developing probable cause for arrest of suspects in a catalytic converter theft—a type of crime that is skyrocketing.
- – Use policy will ensure data safeguards. Importantly, our item requested that the City Manager develop: (1) a data retention schedule; and (2) a use policy that specifies that data may only be used for active crime investigations, not for general surveillance. The cameras do not use facial recognition technology.
CEASEFIRE VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PROGRAM. As a longer-term strategy, Councilmember Taplin has proposed that the City seek consulting services to develop a Gun Violence Intervention Program (see Item #10)—similar to the Oakland model—that builds connections among law enforcement, social services, and the community.
SCHOOL CROSSING GUARDS. Police Chief Louis has requested funding to fill four vacant crossing guard posts in the City, and it’s my understanding that the intersection of Rose and Sacramento (near Ruth Acty Elementary School) will be the first post filled, if this funding is approved on Tuesday.
If these public safety investments are important to you, then I encourage you to attend tomorrow’s Council meeting via Zoom and express your support for these specific investments during public comment for Item #44. This item will be heard soon after the Consent Calendar, likely no earlier than 7 p.m. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you can e-mail Mayor Jesse Arreguín (email@example.com) to request that these investments are included in his mid-year budget proposal. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments: firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-981-7110.