University Students’ Parents Hire Private Campus Security Guards Amid Crime Concerns

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John Oyewale Contributor
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Private security guards hired by concerned parents of some University of California Berkeley students began patrolling the area around campus late Wednesday following a rash of criminal incidents in the Berkeley area, according to reports.

The parent group, under the name SafeBears, hired Streetplus, a safety service provider for downtowns and improvement districts, to shore up security around the university campus in what is a nearly three-week pilot program from Mar. 6–23, the Berkeley Scanner reported. SafeBears reportedly raised about $40,000 for the security program, also named SafeBears. The university is expected to take over after Mar. 23, CBS News reported.

“After a series of violent attacks at UC Berkeley, parents like me formed an advocacy group called SafeBears dedicated to making Cal safe for students,” SafeBears President Sagar Jethani wrote in an op-ed last April, highlighting a variety of security concerns including the fatal stabbing of Cash App founder Bob Lee. “[U]ntil the city of Berkeley as a whole becomes safer, students will continue to be at risk,” Jethani added.

The six-person SafeBears safety ambassadors patrol the area surrounding the campus daily from 6:30 p.m. – 3:00 a.m. to physically deter crime in the area around the campus, according to the Berkeley Scanner.

“They’ve undergone criminal background checks with the California Department of Justice as well as the [Federal Bureau of Investigation],” Jethani told ABC7 News Bay Area. “They are not carrying any kind of defensive gear, they’re not carrying pepper spray or batons.”

Some of the ambassadors working for Streetplus are veterans, with the job being “an ideal job for military personnel transitioning from active duty or for reservists,” according to Streetplus’ website.

Jethani told ABC7 the university‘s authorities did not seem to address student safety concerns with urgency. He has two twin male children at the university, CBS News noted. (RELATED: ‘A Big Social Experiment’: Berkeley Moves Forward With Replacing Police With Unarmed Civilians For Traffic Stops)

The security concerns grew following an October 2022 fatal shooting steps away from the university‘s residence halls on the south side of the campus, according to CBS News. A suspect reportedly fired a gun in the air last month, causing students to take cover and shelter in place. A student told the outlet she was a victim of two robberies, including an armed carjacking.

On-campus theft of vehicles — including e-scooters, skateboards, e-bikes and golf carts — soared from 81 incidents in 2021 to 307 in 2022, according to data from the university’s police department. Aggravated assault and drug law violations also increased between 2021 and 2022, the data showed. Burglaries in the Berkeley area rose from 801 incidents in 2021 to 1036 in 2022 and overall crime also increased from 6241 incidents in 2021 to 7201 incidents in 2022, BPD data showed.

“We feel very uncertain, unsettled, and insecure leaving our children here,” a parent, who reportedly received numerous crime alerts regarding the areas around the residence halls, told CBS News. “Makes me feel like I need to get in my car and drive to campus and pick up my children…”