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Berkeley residents unite in 'night-walks' to fight crime

February 7, 2014 | KTVU | Source Article

Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA)

BERKELEY, Calif. —Berkeley residents concerned about crime hit the pavement with a peace message Thursday evening.

About 30 people walked the sidewalks near downtown and the Cal campus, handing out leaflets to those they passed.

The leaflets list safety tips and urge people to get involved.

"We have to do something," organizer Anton Burrell told KTVU. "We're not going to stay in our house, lock the door, no, it's our community."

Burrell works with Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action.

These “night-walks” in high-crime areas are a facet of the "Ceasefire" crime-reduction strategy adopted by Oakland and other cities.

And he points out: walking together is an enjoyable way for people to unite.

As for what they should say to people they encounter?

"We're just here to say we love our community, we love you," Burrell advised.

He warned against engaging in any active crime-fighting, and noted, law-breaking is unlikely while they're on the move.

"They try to do it in the darkness, but when they see this number of people walking, they will leave that area alone," he told the group before departure.

"We will call the police if we see anything," he added.

Thursday's gathering was Berkeley BOCA's third march. The first one, in October, followed a killing, and drew more than 100 people.

"We don't stop just because there's not a victim, because there’s always victims we don't hear about," said Burrell.

The march covered about a dozen blocks, pausing outside a women's shelter and at two large U.C. Berkeley dorms.

Passing Cal students were intrigued. Many are aware their classmates are among the robbery victims, stripped of cell phones and laptops.

"It was in the Daily Cal all the time, we saw those numbers a bunch, but I don't chat about it with my friends,” freshman Tarah Connolly told KTVU.

"I wish they had built this up a little bit more," fellow freshman Mustafa Sohail told KTVU. "I didn't see a sign for anything like this. I think if students knew about this, they'd come out.”

Berkeley enjoyed a decade of declining crime until 2012, when it rose, and last year, when it increased even more.

Organizers plan to make the marches a monthly event.

"Will this stop every murder, robbery, assault? No it won't", concludes Burrell, "but it will stop some of them, and we start changing the atmosphere, saying we want safety in our community."