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A group of concerned parents raised $40,000 to pay for private security guards to patrol the University of California, Berkeley campus area amid crime concerns, and the program reportedly stopped at least one assault in progress within a three-week period.

SafeBears touts itself as an organization of “1,300+ Cal parents and community allies working to improve safety for UC Berkeley students.” It recently raised thousands to conduct a private security pilot program of unarmed “safety ambassadors” to patrol around UC Berkeley. These security guards patrolled the campus area from 6:30 p.m. at night to 3 a.m., from March 6 to March 23.

As SafeBears president Sagar Jethani told the Berkeley Scanner, a safety ambassador intervened to stop an attack near UC Berkeley when on patrol shortly after midnight early March 23. The safety ambassador heard shouting and ran to investigate, finding a young woman on the ground as a man loomed over and shouted, raising his leg to kick her as other men watched and waited from a nearby car. After being confronted by the safety ambassador, the assailant fled the scene. The young woman told the safety ambassador that she did not know the man who assaulted her but did not want to contact the police.

“We’re horrified that this happened,” Jethani said of the incident. “But it’s also significant that one of our private security guards was able to take a bad situation and stop it from getting worse.” 

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A spokesperson from UC Berkeley told Fox News Digital, “Hiring private security raises a number of concerns including the training and experience of individuals hired by such firms.”

“We believe that university funds are better spent hiring more sworn or non-sworn UCPD officers for standard daily response efforts,” the spokesperson wrote, “We do not believe that private security should take precedence over hiring sworn officers. In addition, a holistic approach to campus safety is required and is the most effective approach.”

“UC Berkeley can be rightly proud of all its Nobel Prizes, but in my opinion, it’s not a truly world-class institution if its community members are unsafe.”

Jethani, who has twin sons at Berkeley, defended the safety ambassador program, telling Fox News Digital, “Instead of fretting about whether our safety ambassadors are properly trained, the UC Berkeley administration should worry that violent attacks against students like this are happening all the time.”

The SafeBears president said the school engaged in “false advertising” to parents about the campus’ safety and that his organization “simply wants the administration to provide the safety services it told us already existed.” He also cited data on college crime rankings that put UC Berkeley in the #1 spot for criminal offenses on campus in 2022 with 719, with the second ranked school at 516.

Between 2007 and 2022, the UCPD reported property crimes increased almost 10%, from 842 to 920, while violent crimes rose almost 100%, from 48 to 95.

Bruce Bauer, who served in the University of California Police Department (UCPD) between 1978-2010, told Fox News Digital the need for SafeBears has been driven by the “reduction by almost half of the number of police officers in UCPD over the last 15 years, accompanied by a corresponding rise in crime. From 2007 to 2022, police officer staffing dropped from 78 to 42. Arrests during the same period dropped from 827 to 213,” he said. The university says the UCPD had 45 sworn officers as of Jan.

“Looking at the stats, students attending Cal were safer when I retired than they are today. SafeBears wants to restore and increase that level of safety,” Bauer said.

“We understand the concerns regarding campus safety and are taking action,” UC Berkeley told Fox News Digital, citing increased security efforts, increased staffing of community service officers and recruitment of more UCPD officers, along with ongoing efforts like night safety services, working with the City of Berkeley, student safety education and collaborating with parents and families.  

safety ambassador

Berkeley student Tyler Mahomes, who described himself as a student Senator for Greek Life and the Black Community who advocates for safety, told Fox News Digital, “Every time I discussed it with my peers, nearly every person had a time when they or someone they knew felt unsafe. It became increasingly disturbing when my peers would talk about being held up by gunpoint or assaulted walking home from a library like these were expected interactions when you attend Berkeley.”

He said the WarnMe system “that notifies us of crimes in and surrounding campus first brought this issue to my attention,” because “we as students would receive multiple [alerts] a day with subject lines such as ‘Student Assaulted by Punch’ or ‘Robbery in Unit 1.’”

Mahomes also referenced “two shooting events in the past two years where students were outraged by a lack of communication and transparency with the systems the University has provided (chiefly our WarnMe system).”

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The editorial board of the Daily Californian, a student-run newspaper, criticized UC Berkeley’s WarnMe system in late February after a man “fired nine shots into the air” on a Friday night on campus in early February, after an altercation with a student dance group, shattering a window in a nearby building. The paper said that the WarnMe system “did not report the incident” until 40 minutes after the incident occurred, downplaying it as an “aggravated assault” and merely warning students to “avoid the area.”

A spokesperson for UC Berkeley spoke to Fox News Digital, “We understand and appreciate the concerns raised regarding the WarnMe messages and, as with any serious incident like this one, we review the matter and identify areas where we can improve. We are taking a closer look at our WarnMe protocols.” 

The spokesperson went on to say, “Please keep in mind that the suspect was arrested within one minute of the shooting. We are grateful for the prompt police response and that no one was hurt. However, we are also mindful of the ordeal’s emotional toll on students and others who were unaware of the status of the situation.”

UC Berkeley's Sather Gate

Victoria Cole told Fox News Digital that less than a month after dropping her daughter off at UC Berkeley, “a man wanted on a felony warrant got into one of the buildings in her residential hall complex and made his way to a 6th floor shower before being arrested by campus police.” She added that this is an “ongoing problem at UC Berkeley” as “one of the incidents last year resulted in the sexual battery of a female employee.”

“I do love attending UC Berkeley, however, in its current state, I don’t believe I would send my future child there.”

In September, a man on campus appeared to threaten multiple students with a pick-axe. That same month, many parents attended a Zoom meeting with university officials regarding a series of campus trespassers, including one who was charged with annoying/molesting a victim under 18 years old, one who grabbed an employee’s buttocks, and one who made their way to a women’s shower. The next month, a trio were charged with armed robbery, having committed 5 robberies near the campus in a 30-minute period. The previous year, two men were charged with murdering a youth pastor near UC Berkeley who succumbed to bullet wounds after trying to stop a fight.

“Beyond the private security pilot program, I think an organization like SafeBears is needed to hold the university and city accountable and to push for more safety measures,” Cole said.

Mahomes agreed, saying he thought SafeBears serves “a dual purpose– protecting students and putting pressure on the university to take safety more seriously.”

“It will need to be a collaborative effort between students, parents, and university officials to address these issues. My suggestion to the school is to give students and parents a seat at the table,” he said.

“I do love attending UC Berkeley, however, in its current state, I don’t believe I would send my future child there,” Mahomes said. “Until something changes, until efforts to make the campus come more strongly from the school than parents; that’s when I would be confident that the Berkeley I’ve grown to love is truly safe for those who attend.” 

While acknowledging crime in the greater Bay Area is beyond their control, Cole said, “UC Berkeley does have a responsibility to provide security appropriate to the level of threat its students face. And they are not doing that.”

Cole said, “UC Berkeley can be rightly proud of all its Nobel Prizes, but in my opinion, it’s not a truly world-class institution if its community members are unsafe.”

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