A Berkeley teenager was charged in court yesterday with shooting a bullet into the shoulder of another teenager Sunday morning in south Berkeley.
Melvin Davis, 19, was arrested in Oakland Thursday.
Berkeley police said that Davis was charged with firing several shots at Ryan Arceneaux, 19, as he and three others sat in a parked car at the 1500 block of Alcatraz Avenue. No one else was injured.
Berkeley police Lt. Cynthia Harris said no weapons were found at the scene or on Davis on Thursday. Harris had no criminal history record for the suspect. The investigation is ongoing.
Sunday’s shooting plus the arrest of 20 people last week in south and west Berkeley on charges related to the sale of narcotics and for probation violations is fueling fears that violence and drug activity in the south and west are on the rise.
According to Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, residents have complained that the drug activity that had been on the decline is back.
“Neighbors have been extremely upset about the increase in drug activity,” Dean said.
Last week’s sweep was the result of several months of surveillance by BPD’s Special Enforcement Unit formed in large part to slow increased drug activity in south and west Berkeley.
Dean hopes that efforts such as last week’s sweep will show that the city is committed to fighting crime. “This was an important show by the city that we take this seriously. There was an extremely bad drug situation in the ‘80s and early ‘90s here but with increased effort that activity went down. Recently it’s again risen to a level of real notice and real concern,” said Dean.
Officers, city officials and residents agree that more communication between the community and the police is needed to mitigate violence and drug activity.
Dean notes that community watchgroups have in the past made strong efforts to share information with the police in an attempt to reduce crime. “We’ve got to make that communication once again a priority and make it stronger and better than it was even then,” said Dean.
Meetings such as west Berkeley’s community forum at Rosa Parks Elementary School last week give residents a chance to express their concerns to the police and city officials.
According to Dean, the Berkeley police will lose a number of officers in July due to retirement and as a result will lose valuable resources in the fight against crime.
Dean says that with the retirements, the department will lose not only bodies, but experience, knowledge and understanding of the history of criminal activity in Berkeley.
“A lot of the drug activity is located in certain city pockets. With these retirements we’re going to lose that information and that knowledge, the street information and experience,” said Dean.
Upcoming budget cuts will also challenge the city’s ability to fight crime, according to the mayor. The cuts will eliminate funding for a number of neighborhood youth programs that are cited as important deterrents to drug activity among minors.
According to Dean, the Healthy Schools Program, which provides money for a variety of extracurricular, counseling and athletic programs will soon lose funding.
Dean says that the city needs to come together in protest of these cuts.
According to Harris, efforts to track drug dealers and prevent crime will have to constantly change and evolve as criminals become more and more adept. “We have to always be flexible with our efforts. Drug dealers are always changing their patterns too,” said Harris.
Harris says that patrols have increased in both south and west Berkeley and that the city and the BPD both plan to announce future community based programs in the coming days.
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