City Issues 2002: Candidates for Mayor Take Aim at City's Crime

Nate Tabak is a staff writer for the Daily Cal, and Monica Lam is a contributing writer for the Daily Cal.

Nate Tabak covers crime. E-mail him at [email protected].

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In a city that sometimes seems like a country club in comparison to homicide-plagued Oakland, Berkeley's crime troubles often go un-noticed. Still, Berkeley City Council and mayoral candidates in this year's election race are turning their attention to the city's crime.

While the city saw its homicides jump to five this year-up from just one last year-police say violent crime has fallen significantly over the past five years.

More often, police receive complaints about burglaries and other property crimes.

Mayoral candidates Tom Bates and Shirley Dean point to property crimes as one of the largest problems facing Berkeley. While they share similar visions for how to fight crime, they part ways in how the city can help police make that happen.

Dean says more police officers are needed for patrol and community services, and she would like to see the city increase its force by 10 to 15 officers.

But she acknowledges the plan would be expensive and could not be implemented immediately because of the city's tight budget. The city's budget deficit currently exceeds $1 million.

"It's a choice the city is going to have to make," Dean says. "I think public safety is a basic necessity."

Bates says he is skeptical that creating more positions would do the trick.

"The question is deployment," Bates says. "Police officers need to be accessible to the community."

As a cornerstone of cutting down crime, both Dean and Bates say they want to see the Berkeley Police Department put more resources into community policing, a program that stresses crime prevention by educating residents and building close relationships with neighborhoods.

Police say the majority of property crimes are able to occur because the victims fail to secure their belongings.

These crimes, while not violent, "seem to touch the most people," says Berkeley police Officer Mary Kusmiss.

In one of the most common incidents, victims-typically UC Berkeley students-leave their bags unattended in Southside eateries, only to have them snatched by a thief, Kusmiss says.

These crimes happen largely because "people are not being careful" about locking doors and securities, Bates says.

"People are not on guard as much as they should be," he says.

While educating potential victims is crucial to reducing crime, criminals also need to be discouraged, Dean says.

"We need to convince people that coming into Berkeley to do bad things is a bad idea," Dean says.

Both mayoral candidates are pushing for the addition of an on-demand detoxification center, which they say will help reduce crime.

"When people make the decision to be clean, they need support," Bates says. "We're talking about public facilities for poor people. They're down and out when they realize they need to change."

"It's got to happen," Dean says.

UC Berkeley sophomore and District 7 City Council candidate Micki Weinberg supports keeping businesses located near campus open later-until midnight or 1 a.m.

"We need to create an environment that is not inviting to crime," Weinberg says. "If there's more night life and people on the street, the streets will be safer."

Councilmember Kriss Worthington says he has already taken steps to encourage businesses to stay open late.

Both Weinberg and Worthington support installing more street lighting around the city.


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