U.C. Berkeley Parents Hired Private Security to Patrol Near Campus

Some parents of students at the University of California, Berkeley, hired private security workers to patrol near the campus, something the school says should be left up to the campus police.

The group, called SafeBears, says it represents more than 1,300 parents of students at the university. It said it decided to hire the security guards after several crimes involving students last year, including a carjacking near a fraternity house and another one near campus.

The university, which has about 45,000 students, said in a statement that the hiring raised concerns about training and experience, and that “university funds are better spent hiring more” campus police officers.

Jonathan Simon, a professor of criminal justice law at U.C. Berkeley, said in a statement that he understood why parents were concerned about safety, but that there was no evidence that the risk at the university was exceptional.

“I just don’t see how this stunt can do anything to significantly alter those risks and instead reflects the relative privilege of the parents involved,” he said.

It would be better to keep the gym open 24 hours a day and have well-lit running and jogging paths to have more space for students to stay on campus in the evening, he added.

Parents have been on edge after a few high-profile crimes on university campuses. In February, the body of a 22-year-old Augusta University nursing student was found in a wooded area at the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.

SafeBears — the name is a nod to the U.C. Berkeley mascot — spent more than $40,000 to hire the security officers through a contractor. From March 6 to 23, six “safety ambassadors” in bright yellow jackets patrolled areas near the school, but not on campus, from 6:30 p.m. until 3:30 a.m. The areas were chosen because of recent crime reports, according to the parents.

“I have heard from a lot of students who have expressed gratitude and relief when they say that they saw our security agents patrolling around campus,” said Sagar Jethani, the president of SafeBears, whose twin sons are sophomores at the university.

All the people SafeBears hired underwent a criminal-background check, according to a statement from the group.

They also received at least 32 hours of security officer training. They did not carry pepper spray, batons, handcuffs or other “defensive equipment,” the statement said.

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