Watch CBS News

Parents of UC Berkeley students hire private security guards to patrol campus

Parents of UC Berkeley students hire private security to patrol campus
Parents of UC Berkeley students hire private security to patrol campus 03:49

BERKELEY -- Starting this week, a team of private security guards will patrol the south side of the University of California Berkeley campus. They were hired by a group of concerned parents.

The guards will work from 6:30 at night to 3 a.m., focusing on patrolling three main dorm buildings and the surrounding area. Cal parents who are part of a group called Safe Bears say this is long overdue but some wonder if it will really make the streets safer.

Rebekah, who declined to provide her last name, studies electronic engineering. She arrived in Berkeley in 2018 and felt safe on campus and in the city but, in the last two years, she's been the victim of two armed robberies.

"I was parking in my driveway and, as I was unlocking the door, two people approached me from behind," she said. "One came to the driver's seat. One came to the passenger seat. They pointed a gun at me and told me to get out of the car."

She lost her personal belongings and her car.

"I feel like, when I'm walking the streets, I'm always scared. I'm always looking around," she said. "When I get in and out of cars, I'm always running to my car and locking immediately. I feel like it's not a sustainable lifestyle anymore."

Like many cities in the Bay Area, Berkeley has seen its share of robberies and other violent crimes. Sagar Jethani has twin boys at Cal and couldn't wait any longer for the university to beef up security.

"The fact is if they're not going to act, despite repeated pleas from parents and students to take more substantial action, then we're going to act," Jethani said. "We're going to do what needs to be done to keep our family safe."

Safe Bears raised $40,000 to pay for the security guards. Some patrol on foot around the dorms and others are on bikes to cover a wider area. The pilot program though will only last until March 23. After that, the hope is that the university will take over.

"We want to, frankly, turn up the heat with the administration," Jethani said. "We want to show that we're not content to just wait forever to have these safety ambassadors deployed."

UC Berkeley in a statement wrote that the university is taking action to increase campus safety by adding more surveillance cameras and adding community service officers which are students trained by UCPD. It's also looking to hire more sworn police officers. Cal says training and experience are concerns when it comes to hiring private security.

These guards though are only equipped with radios to report crimes.

"I guess I wonder what their approach is supposed to be," Heidi, a student said. "If suddenly someone appeared like out of the blue. What proactive measures are they ready to take?"

Xuan, another student, added, "I like the campus security officers because I know like they're there to make students feel safe but I don't think we need additional security."

Rebekah hopes the security program will spare another student from becoming a victim of a violent crime but she feels it's going to take a holistic approach to make a real impact.

"I think there are actions that can be taken at multiple levels," Rebekah said. "At the university level, city level and state level. But there definitely needs to be a change."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.