Berkeley mayor forges coalition to take on rising East Bay crime

Jesse Arreguín, who convened the group, said it will meet quarterly and partner more closely to address public safety challenges.

Berkeley mayor forges coalition to take on rising East Bay crime
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and other local leaders will meet quarterly to address crime. Berkeley Mayor's Office

A group of East Bay leaders say they will unify their efforts to address rising crime, citing a "string of high-profile incidents" that have caused alarm.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who brought the group together, said the coalition will partner more closely to address public safety challenges.

"We have to work together across city and county lines to enhance public safety for the entire East Bay," Arreguín said in a prepared statement. "This partnership will enable greater coordination and regional strategies that prevent and deter crime, and hold these individuals accountable."

Arreguín and other local officials announced the "regional convening on public safety and crime" from the parking lot of the Holiday Inn & Suites at 77 Hegenberger Road in Oakland on Wednesday morning.

Joining Arreguín at the dais were Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez and Supervisor Nate Miley, Oakland City Council members Treva Reid, Kevin Jenkins, Janani Ramachandran and Noel Gallo, San Leandro Mayor Juan González III, Emeryville Mayor Courtney Welch, Berkeley Councilman Terry Taplin and Berkeley Police Chief Jen Louis, among other leaders.

Representatives from the Oakland Police Department were also there.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and Alameda County DA Pamela Price were notably absent from Wednesday's event.

The group now plans to focus on the prevention and deterrence of violent and property crime as well as holding perpetrators accountable, the mayor's office said in a prepared statement.

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"Our law enforcement leaders that are here today, our elected officials that are here today, that's a big deal," said Berkeley Police Chief Jen Louis. "When we collaborate together on these approaches, we can make a real impact."

Not only do these collaborations build community trust, Louis added, they also allow for better solutions.

"We're able to have a lot more sophisticated conversations about what's occurring, where it's occurring, how it's occurring and how we can address it," she said.

Berkeley Police Chief Jen Louis addresses the media Wednesday in Oakland. BPD

The regional meetings will allow for greater collaboration on everything from building consensus around legislative and fiscal advocacy, improved data analysis, better communication about regional crime trends and root causes, and more coordination around crime prevention technologies, the mayor's office said.

In his prepared statement, Arreguín took pains to note that East Bay crime rates remain "significantly lower" than during the '90s and even when compared to a decade ago.

Still, he acknowledged that "there has been an increase in recent years," particularly in the areas of "organized crime committing retail theft and property crimes such as auto burglaries and catalytic converter and vehicle thefts."

Berkeley saw large spikes in robbery and vehicle theft in 2023, according to preliminary data reviewed by Aipsasiamedia. Commercial burglary also rose last year, while shootings and homicides overall were down.

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In his announcement, Arreguín said that the new regional effort had been "inspired in part by the East Bay Public Safety Corridor Partnership, a 5-year program that launched in 1993 to address crime, gun violence, and drug abuse."

That partnership, in which former Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates brought together communities along the I-80 corridor, "was credited with reducing homicides by 30% and other violent crimes by as much as two-thirds," the mayor's office said Wednesday. It "received national recognition for best practices."

Arreguín's announcement this week comes on the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom's decision last week to send 120 CHP officers to Oakland to help fight crime.

Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta said they are also sending prosecutors to Alameda County to help DA Pamela Price litigate "serious and complex" cases.

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Arreguín's office said the new regional public safety partnership will complement and build upon that work.

The coalition held its first meeting Jan. 26 and will continue on a quarterly basis, the mayor's office said.

West Berkeley Councilman Terry Taplin, who has been widely credited with making sure Berkeley public safety concerns stayed in the spotlight when few other officials were talking about it, praised Arreguín for bringing the coalition together.

Read more about crime in Berkeley.

Taplin also noted that no single city can address the regional public safety crisis on its own.

"East Bay cities need to work collaboratively and share resources to confront the realities of modern crime," he said. "If we are to secure a viable economic future for our region, we need modern tools, smart tactics and leaders willing to take an unwavering stance in defense of our residents, businesses and communities.

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