SafeBears, a nonprofit organization consisting of UC Berkeley parents and Berkeley community members dedicated to ensuring student safety, is looking to launch a pilot program that would install private security guards around campus.
SafeBears president Sagar Jethani noted in an email that campus is one of the most dangerous universities in the country. Total crimes in Berkeley have increased by 8% since last year, according to the Berkeley Police Department, or BPD. Jethani clarified that the proposed private security would not be stationed on campus property but instead would be located in student-dense areas around campus.
He added that the private security would have direct contact with BPD for necessary backup.
“While the administration opens new colleges and breaks ground on new buildings, it has forgotten about its commitment to keeping its students safe from harm,” Jethani said in the email. “We’re all impressed with the Nobel prizes. Now make our students safe.”
According to Jethani, SafeBears is independently planning the program but has collaborated with campus administration in the past by introducing night shuttles and increased security monitors.
Jethani maintained his belief that SafeBears will be most effective in achieving its goals by continuing to operate separately from campus administration.
“We want to draw as much media attention as possible to our pilot program in the hope that it will force the administration to respond by putting a similar program in place on its own,” Jethani said in the email. “That’s how USC got its famous ‘Yellow Jacket’ safety ambassadors – it started as a parent-led initiative from families who were dissatisfied with crime around campus.”
With the two-week pilot program, which has a price tag of about $30,000, Jethani hopes to prove that private security can be a good investment and improve safety for students around campus.
In response to SafeBears’ initiative, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore noted campus’s concerns regarding the training and experience of private security guards. She expressed their belief in taking a “holistic” approach to campus safety, and that university funds would be “better spent hiring more sworn or non-sworn UCPD officers.”
Board member and campus parent Roberto Reynoso noted in an interview that the university is not adequately tackling student safety.
Reynoso added that studying at a university is “difficult enough” without having to worry about one’s own safety, and students deserve an environment where they know they are protected.
“As a parent, when I go visit my daughter, and I’m walking to the dorms or to the apartment complexes in broad daylight, I don’t feel safe,” Reynoso said. “I’ve had a couple of experiences where I don’t feel safe as a grown man. The way I feel unsafe walking around UC Berkeley I believe that students have been convinced that it’s normal and it’s not.”