Berkeley residents tackle safety issues after shootings

More than 100 people gathered in southwest Berkeley Monday evening to discuss local crime. Photos: Tracey Taylor

Two weeks after two multiple shootings rattled southwest Berkeley residents, more than a hundred neighbors gathered in the gym at Berkeley Youth Alternatives on Bonar Street on Monday evening, just a few yards away from the first shooting, to discuss possible causes, as well as preventive measures.

According to the police, none of the men shot on the nights of March 2 and March 4 were local. They simply liked to hang out on the 2200 block of Bonar and on the 2100 block of Seventh Street. Both incidents, which do not appear to be connected, are still being investigated, according to Berkeley Police Lt. Dave Frankel who addressed the meeting. Berkeley Police do not believe they are gang-related and, Frankel added, not all the victims are “being cooperative.”

The fact that the victims do not live in the buildings is a sign neighbors and property owners can do more to prevent certain areas from becoming hang-out spaces, police said — by both securing buildings and coming together as a community to keep an eye out on brewing crime.

“We believe that sometime in the past [the victims] may have had associations with people living there, so their familiarity with the buildings made it easy for them to disappear down the driveway. One of the folks who was shot doesn’t live there but his car was parked in the parking lot of the apartment building,” Frankel said.

Cliff Johnson, the owner of two buildings in the 2000 block of Bonar Street, outside of which three men were shot at on March 2, is taking action now. He said he was doing whatever the police were recommending, which includes installing motorized gates and screen doors and hiring an off-site firm to monitor footage from existing security cameras.

Berkeley Police officer Cesar Melero said it was fortunate that the property owner in this case was so “responsive” and “responsible” and the audience showed its appreciation with a round of applause.

Left to right: Councilman Darryl Moore, Lt. David Frankel and officer Cesar Melero at the community meeting.

Presentations were made by the Berkeley Housing Authority, its housing inspection unit, and the city’s Problem Property Team. Berkeley’s interim City Manager Christine Daniel was in the audience at the meeting, as was Councilman Max Anderson.

But several of those in the room felt attention was too focused on property and not on the lives of the young men who were getting into trouble in the neighborhood.

Todd Walker, who works closely with youth in Berkeley, said: “When all of you drive home and go back to your big houses, these kids are still going to be out here shooting dice. Don’t talk like these kids are nothing. Stop worrying about your property values and start saving these kids’ lives.”

And a resident of one of the Bonar apartment buildings under discussion suggested that the police needed to get to know the inhabitants better so they could distinguish them from the loiterers outside. Art Williams said police often take their time answering calls from residents such as himself then harass the residents. He added: “I’ve watched the police sit on the corner and watch kids 30-deep rolling dice.”

Councilman Darryl Moore, who called the meeting, said it boiled down to helping Berkeley’s disenfranchised youth find jobs, while Councilman Anderson saw the gathering as a good first step in addressing some of the safety problems. “If we isolate ourselves we don’t have a community,” he said.

Related:
Community meeting called in wake of Berkeley shootings [03.13.12]
Three men shot, wounded early Sunday in west Berkeley [03.05.12]
Three people shot on Bonar St, no life-threatening injuries [03.02.12] 

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
  • bgal4

    Berkeley’s political leaders continue to promote the “root causes” theory of crime  despite decades of evidence showing the failures of  this concept in  reducing crime. The latest example is NY city, see Zimring’s latest book.

    http://oaklandnorth.net/2011/10/26/crime-expert-frank-zimring-suggests-oakland-adopt-new-yorks-crime-reduction-techniques/.

    James Q Wilson,  recognized as a premier social scientist whose work extended past partisan divides and ideogolies, recently died. Among his many contributions to public policy  is the framing of the “broken windows” theory  as a crime reduction strategy. The major media reported on his legacy including this fun and challenging debate about crime theories between Glenn Loury and Mark Kleiman. Kleiman challenges liberals to review the evidence  because we can’t afford to get it wrong , the social cost is too great.

    http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/9198

    Glenn Loury (Brown University) and Mark Kleiman (The Reality-Based Community, UCLA, When Brute Force Fails)

    Mark and Glenn start off by recalling Harvard’s Kennedy School in 1980s, where they both came to know James Q. Wilson. Mark says liberals got the crime question wrong, while Glenn urges that “crime” be placed in broad political perspective. Glenn asks why the US imprisons so many—could the answer be American democracy? Glenn and Mark argue the merits of the new parole supervision policy reflected in Project HOPE. They close with a heated debate on crime, human nature, and Wilson’s legacy.

  • Ed S.

    “When all of you drive home and go back to your big houses, these kids are still going to be out here shooting dice. Don’t talk like these kids are nothing. Stop worrying about your property values and start saving these kids’ lives.”

    I have to take Mr. Walker up on his statement, rebuking people for going back to their “big houses” and “worrying about your property values”, because it is just too flip a statement.  Those who attended that meeting, those who live in the South West Berkeley community, are folks who do not live in big houses, and likely value living in a racially and socio-economicly integrated community and neighborhood, and having their kids educated in a public school system that is likewise integrated.  While Mr. Walker does good work, he should be called out on that statement.

  • Bruce Love

    I like Kleiman’s quote:

    “The only problem with the American crime debate  is that — particularly at the academic level –   it’s conducted by the disciples of Michael Foucault,  who are worried about the carceral state and excessive  social control, and the disciples of the Marquis  De Sade.   And if you’ve got an idea that’s too   carceral for the Foucaultians and not mean enough for  the sadists, you’re out of luck”

    I can vouch for that.

  • bgal4

    Hey Art Williams,

     I recommend you ask the Police Review Commission  why it is the police and code enforcement operates on a citizens’ complaint  driven  platform. 

    Cops understand the career killing headaches they will endure at the hands of the PRC if they initiate a stop of minority males without a citizens complaint.

    Typical blame the cops and white gentry talk.  Empty of moral or ethical substance.

  • BHills

    Dear Mr. Art Williams.  I have some information for you regarding your statement cited in this article.

    Art Williams said police often take their time answering calls from residents such as himself…

    I live in a different part of Berkeley altogether and would say the same.  I attended the meeting at Northbrae Church a couple of weeks and learned, among other things, that there are circumstances in which a policeman ONE BLOCK AWAY form a call is not dispatched to the scene.

    I would like to see all of us address the issue of first responders as a city because, at the end of the day, regardless of where in the city we happen to live, we are protected and served by the same policemen and firemen and are subject to their policies and procedures, which, in turn, are driven in large part by their funding levels.

  • Chris

     I agree 100%.

  • Toni Mester

    I don’t know what to make of these figures, but there has been a demographic shift in that neighborhood, which is within census tract 4231. The population rose to 3,964 in the first decade of the 21st century, with the number of African Americans falling 157 to a total of 712. The number of whites and Asians rose 203 and 122 to a total of 2,126 and 522, respectively. To most people this would indicate “gentrification” but I’m not so sure. Overall Berkeley lost 19% of its total black population between 2000 and 2010, and if the reason is the rise of property values and aging, prompting black property owners to sell, then the reverse of “gentrification” would be happening, that is the loss of working class black property owners, who would be stabilizing force in their community. Just pondering statistics found on one of my favorite sites, American Factfinder (US Census), not making any statement, ideological or otherwise.

  • bgal4

     Try black flight and market forces before misusing the G word.

  • Toni Mester

    Well, Laura, I didn’t misuse the G word; I put it in quotation marks. If a  family sells their property after grandma has died and they can buy a bigger house elsewhere for the money, they are trading up, hopefully for a better life. There is never one reason for any discreet action, no less for a social phenomenon.

  • Bruce Love

    Toni I’ve read that a few times and I confess I can’t make sense of what you are saying.

    This is where you lose me:

    To most people this would indicate “gentrification” but I’m not so
    sure. Overall Berkeley lost 19% of its total black population between
    2000 and 2010, and if the reason is the rise of property values and
    aging, prompting black property owners to sell, then the reverse of
    “gentrification” would be happening, that is the loss of working class
    black property owners, who would be stabilizing force in their community.

    So the loss in that neighborhood is on par with Berkeley overall, right?

    “if the reason is [...] property values and aging [....] then the reverse of ‘gentrification’ would be happening”

    To me that sounds like you just said “if the reason is gentrification then the reverse of gentrification would be happening”.  Huh?  I’m sure you didn’t mean that… so….

    Might you please unpack your statement a bit?

  • Toni Mester

    Hi Bruce/Tom,
    It’s not gentrification or black flight. It’s a demographic shift. People call it one thing or another because of how they think about the shift. I’m not sure if the loss of black population is entirely a loss of property owners; it’s probably also tenants. I would have to work at the census figures more, and I don’t have time to do that research. However, the census site if there for anybody who wants to deal with the facts. I disagree with Laura about the primary motivation being flight from crime. Perhaps she can prove it, but fear can not explain such a complex phenomenon: the loss of 19% of the black population. People sell property when they can trade up, and property values in Berkeley have remained relatively steady compared to many other markets. At any rate, I have to exit this discussion and leave it to others to ponder cause and effects. I was merely suggesting that we consider that loss as a destabilizing social influence.  And it’s not important for me to have the last word. Gotta go.

  • Berkeleyfarm

    I agree. I was moderately offended by that comment. I didn’t have to
    drive, my house isn’t big, and I’m worried about my personal safety and that of
    my neighbors* instead of my property values. I didn’t hear a lot of concern
    about property values per se on either B’side or talking with my
    neighbors. Safety was Job One. That speech was wildly inappropriate for the
    Southwest/Westside. Mr. Walker needs to know his audience and not just deliver
    a “one size fits all” speech.

    I arrived late due to circumstances beyond my control and was in the back.
    Looked to be a good cross section of the neighborhood I know and love.

    * Who at 6:20 pm are often out walking their dogs, bringing their kids home
    from school/day care, getting home from work, etc. Hell, I was about to go eat
    at Divino with a friend who also lives in the neighborhood.

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Thanks, Tracey, for being there.  Thanks, Mr. Moore and city leaders, for organizing/preparing remarks.  Thanks, neighbors, for showing up!

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Characterizing Mr. Williams’ remarks as “blame white gentry” is inaccurate, to say the least.  He was genuinely frustrated with the cops, but seems like a nice neighborly fellow.  Now Mr. Walker, on the other hand, with his remarks about “driving to your big houses” … that shoe kinda fits. 

  • Berkeleyfarm

    A fair number on my block were older and had lived in the houses for a while - sold out when they either moved into care/with kids or they died and the heirs sold the house.   Not having as many seniors on patrol (taking their constitutionals, walking their dogs, etc) is IMO a detriment. 

  • Bruce Love

    I believe what he was trying to say was along the lines of:  While it’s nice to see so many of you anxious to help reinforce policing, the social and economic detachment of many of you from the from the less well off communities most impacted by your policing is part of the problem. 

  • Bruce Love

    I think you’re right, Toni, that that loss is destabilizing.   I just don’t get how you think it is distinct from gentrification.

  • Berkeleyfarm

    I wouldn’t have had a problem if he’d said that instead of what he did say. 

  • Anon

     i don’t give a damn about property value. i just don’t want to get shot walking my dog.

  • bgal4

     Toni, I specifically do not before “you” misuse.

    Ascribing gentrification to market forces is a common, hence the touch in check use of  G word.

    Agree about selling grandma’s house and hoping to raise their kids on street free of  dodging bullets.

  • bgal4

    Agree, Walker and Anderson.

  • bgal4

    Have you ever spoken with Todd Walker, cause he suse as heck does not talk like that. Your translation doesn’t change a thing, nor does ascribing the “root cause” theory , which will not reduce gun battles either.

  • Toni Mester

    I honestly don’t know what gentrification means. To some people, it means a demographic shift, which has a tinge of class if not race prejudice implying that some people are inherently “gentry” while others are not. I used to consider getting a t-shirt made that read “Proud to gentrify West Berkeley” by which I meant to honor the total investment required to buy an old house and commit one’s entire existence into the effort of fixing it up.

  • Bruce Love

    I think your case would be stronger if you regarded the policing and
    punishment stuff as complementary to rather than opposed to efforts to
    address “root causes”……

    If I understand you correctly, by the “root cause theory” you are referring to a description / critique of some old-school Great Society / 70s liberalism theorizing.  It goes something like: “Hey, if you want to fight crime, don’t worry about policing — we need social programs for economic and educational development, and then the crime problem will go away.”   And, famously, the ascendancy of that rhetoric in politics was followed by a significant urban crime wave (coincidentally or not).   Meanwhile, certain policing techniques  (like hot-spot and other data driven strategies) are comparatively new and look like they work — and innovations in punitive practice (like H.O.P.E.) show promise for reducing recidivism.   More to the point, the critique of that old-school liberalism goes, the disenfranchised and oppressed are disproportionately harmed and “kept down” by crime — so a true progressive should be very enthusiastic about these policing and punishment innovations.

    Is that a fair summary?

    If so it is all fine as far as it goes but…

    The “root cause” theory still stands.   Even Mark Kleiman in that debate / discussion you forwarded seems to think so.  This thing:

    http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/9198

    As an example, in that debate Mark remarks that if he were in charge with $30B to spend reducing crime, he thinks he might choose to spend it on an environmental justice issue: removing lead wherever it remains in housing.

    Assuming that is a good idea, notice that if implemented well it could also be a big economic stimulus, creating employment opportunities in the most effected communities — so there would be some amplification of the payback.   Call me a bleeding heart if you must but I think if a kid’s  older brother or aunts and uncles have good honest work, probably the kid’s chances are better.

    I think your case would be stronger if you regarded the policing and punishment stuff as complementary to rather than opposed to efforts to address “root causes”.   Fight the crime and pro-actively stimulate the oppressed communities’ (legitimate) economy.

    A cartoon schematic of the nightmare that people like Glenn Loury are trying to get away from can be found in an old episode of The Simpsons — one of the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons.   In the cartoon, the mouse creates a cloning machine that faithfully churns out endless copies of the cat each of which, as it comes off the assembly line, is creatively and brutally murdered.   Cycles of crime and poverty self reproduce across generations like that machine.   Policing can help to break the cycle but the threat of only focusing on policing  is of reaching a steady state where the poverty and oppression continue to reproduce across generations, but “so what” because crime is replaced by “mere” perpetual, multi-generational destitution.

    The two approaches can and should complement each other, not be at one another’s throats.   (That goes for both “sides” in this dubious polarization of the issues.)

    My personal angle on that debate is that traditional social service programs are limited in effectiveness because they don’t do a darn thing to help implement structural changes in the economy that will, as Loury puts it, enhance the “life opportunities” of oppressed folks.  I think what’s missing includes a lot more socially oriented investing and entrepreneurial effort (not that it’s easy or obvious to know where to start).   I can’t speak for Walker, of course, but I’d ask where are the urgent and anxious community meetings for that.

  • The Sharkey

    That’s how I took his comment as well.

    I’m concerned because bullets are flying in my neighborhood and a
    half-dozen people got shot within a short walk from my house, not
    because I’m worried my Mercedes might get scratched while I’m driving to
    or from my mansion in the Hills.

  • The Sharkey

    Thumbs up.

    Unfortunately reporting suspicious activity can occasionally get someone labeled as being “racist.”

  • Bruce Love

    Well, as an example…  you talked about older working-class Black folks leaving the neighborhood by attrition as they “aged out” and property values climbed.  They left for care facilities or to be near supportive, younger family.   You saw the loss of patriarchs and matriarchs as destabilizing (and I think that’s right).

    In earlier times, it was more likely that younger family could have settled  nearby, motivated by price and community.   As the larger community gets priced out, job opportunities decline, and social segregation remains such a big factor, an incumbent community becomes displaced by a wealthier community.   That’s pretty much the definition of gentrification.

    It’s doubly nauseating, in my book, because the real estate inflation that is a key driver of the process was rooted in massive fraud.   It can’t be claimed with a straight face that this was just “the invisible hand” of a true market at work.

  • Anonymous

    From my experience if you dare to call kids on littering you get accused of “regentrifying” the neighborhood.

  • bgal4

    As expected BL blurs the issues avoiding the practical matters.

    What works to reduce crime?

    Reducing crime in areas of concentrated  poverty is paramount to establishing economic and social opportunities in those neighborhoods.

    Have you followed the recent developments of the Fruitvale taco trucks owners consolidated their resources to protect their lives after a child was murdered by one of  these “oppressed’ young men you are so concerned with.

    NY city results prove reducing crime does not require any improvements to the problems of poverty, addiction, and gangs culture.

    But it does prove that if you want people living in a high crime area to have economic and social opportunies, policing works.

  • Bruce Love

    Contrary to root causes” theory crime is down nationally despite the economic recession.

    You’re arguing against a straw-man.   I wish I knew how to bridge the communication gap.

  • Heather_W_62

    Todd Walker, who works closely with youth in Berkeley, said: “When all of you drive home and go back to your big houses, these kids are still going to be out here shooting dice. Don’t talk like these kids are nothing. Stop worrying about your property values and start saving these kids’ lives.”
    Gee, I’m glad I didn’t go to hear that. Though I have no idea of the context, I have to say … I’m white. I live in a shoebox I can barely afford. And I’d really like to help save kids’ lives, but honestly, I’d really like to save mine, too.

    “Councilmember Darryl Moore, who called the meeting, said it boiled down to helping Berkeley’s disenfranchised youth find jobs, while Councilmember Anderson saw the gathering as a good first step in addressing some of the safety problems. “If we isolate ourselves we don’t have a community,” he said.”

    I’d deign to say most of the community members present DO consider themselves a community — that’s why they’re there.

    I have no idea what actually transpired at this meeting that was helpful, but I sure hope something came out of it. Based upon this article, it just seems like the usual –blame people who bought homes in an historically black neighborhood and somehow are framed as “not caring” for the “disenfranchised youth” who in this case, don’t live there. WTF? 

    By the way, college-educated adults are having grave difficulties finding jobs in any sector; how are we to find jobs for the disenfranchised youth who we don’t even offer high school classes in basic hands-on skills? 

  • Bruce Love

    By the way, college-educated adults are having grave difficulties
    finding jobs in any sector; how are we to find jobs for the
    disenfranchised youth who we don’t even offer high school classes in basic hands-on skills?

    There’s no reason to think of those as two separate problems.   Jobs growth can help both groups.

    Some doom and gloom is helpful for context: We have a lot of deep structural problems in our economy.   Our civic infrastructure is in lousy shape.   Much of the housing stock occupied by poor people is in lousy shape.  Our higher quality housing stock is under-utilized for productive purposes.   Our food and water supplies are not sustainable or robust.  Neither is our energy infrastructure.   Our reliance on overseas manufacturing is not resilient against global shocks in fuel prices and financial markets.    These are all national crises, ongoing, and here for the long haul.

    There’s a lot of work that needs doing, both skilled and unskilled, to dig us out of these holes.

    Here’s a tiny example of hope: aquaponics.   Aquaponics is a technique applicable to urban food production.   It’s based on a water cycle:  fish are bread for food and among the inputs are clean water and the outputs water polluted by fish waste.   Water polluted by fish waste is used to fertilize hyrdoponic food crops.   The plants take up the nutrients and one of the waste outputs is water clean enough to be an input to the fish.    A demonstration project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has begun to show that this might become an economically viable (profit generating) way to create jobs and starting to make the food supply more robust and sustainable.   They aren’t entirely there yet but they’re on the way: they’re pulling in $46,000 a month, net after materials and energy costs, but not counting labor.

    http://www.resilientcommunities.com/how-much-food-and-income-can-an-urban-farm-produce/

    In Oakland there is an organization called Kijani Grows working in this area.  They  build and sell aquaponic kits.  Their web site is easy to find.  Here’s a video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jnflDWICMA&sns=em

    So, there’s an example of a nascent line of economic development that can create jobs for both skilled and unskilled labor while simultaneously beginning to counter the structural flaws in our economy.