City police and University of California at Berkeley police are joining forces in the name of improving public safety at night in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhoods and after home football games, the university announced last week.
In the past, some near-campus residents have called both departments separately for assistance, but now, the university said, they will get a joint response from officers regularly assigned to the area and familiar with the community.
Starting this semester, patrols will take place Thursday through Saturday nights between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
"Student safety, especially at night, is [a student government] priority, and we're pleased that both police departments are working so closely to ensure the safety of Cal students," said Berkeley student Kelly McDonnell, who works as chief of staff for the student government president.
The joint teams patrolling the neighborhoods near campus will pair one city and one campus police officer in each of two squad cars, according to the university.
Thanks to an advisory committee comprised on students, neighborhood leaders and senior officials from the campus and the city, the community's call for improved public safety did not fall on deaf ears.
Both police chiefs - the city's Michael Meehan and the university’s Mitch Celaya - arrived at the idea with the input of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Student-Neighbor Relations.
"This plan responds directly to our community's desire for a safer and more civil Southside neighborhood," said Berkeley resident Vincent Casalaina, a former president of the Willard Neighborhood Association.
The joint program is a double-edged sword for students. The collaboration will mean students cited by either police force will have their information transferred to the campus' Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards that could enforce additional disciplinary action.
"Students know that the university's Code of Student Conduct applies on and off campus, and that serious violations can jeopardize their student status," said Assistant Dean Susan Traverse, who directs the center.
Repeat offenses are expected to drop as a result of the program, but improvements in student-neighbor relations are also anticipated as joint patrols will issue citations for unruly parties and other significant neighborhood disturbances, according to the university.
"Our focus is on making the Southside safer and more enjoyable for students and longtime residents, who live side by side," said advisory council chair and Associate Chancellor Linda Williams.