Merchants and nearby residents are hoping a new police foot patrol on Telegraph Avenue and at People's Park will reduce the numbers of transients and their aggressive dogs that drive other people away.
The patrols started April 30. On day two, they arrested a South Carolina murder suspect who was doing push-ups in People's Park. Police said they initially questioned the man because of his shopping cart, which is illegal to possess. After running his name through a database, he was arrested on a no bail warrant.
|Police on foot patrol in People's Park in Berkeley arrest a man wanted for murder in South Carolina. (Photo by Doug Oakley)|
|Police on foot patrol on Telegraph Avenue arrest a man wanted on a $15,000 warrant. (Photo by Doug Oakley)|
|A UC Berkeley police officer on patrol on Telegraph Avenue talks to people hanging out on the sidewalk. (Photo by Doug Oakley)|
"We have been trying to get walking police here for five years," said Al Geyer, who heads up the Telegraph Avenue Merchant's Association. "It's all about livability and public safety. If the patrol is here, the hard-core people with the aggressive dogs will not be here."
While police did not have a complete set of statistics for arrests and citations given out since the patrols started, one of the two teams has made seven arrests for various violations including warrants and issued 17 citations, said UC Berkeley police spokesman Lt. Eric Tejada.
Tejada said there had been foot patrols on Telegraph Avenue and in People's Park for at least 20 years but they faded away about five years ago.
"We've always had some kind of presence as a dedicated beat for the area, but the city of Berkeley partnership is something we invigorated," Tejada said.
Tejada said the Telegraph Avenue area and People's Park draw young transients, who often have dogs, because it is a must-see "legendary area" due to the counterculture of drugs and music established in the late 1960s.
"People's Park is a legendary place for travelers to see when they pass through," Tejada said. "And the city has great services for people. You can get a free meal and medical services and all that stuff."
Tejada, who grew up in Berkeley, said he doesn't think the numbers of young transients on the streets around Telegraph Avenue have changed.
"To me, it's kind of the same as it ever was," Tejada said.
Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said the complaints about people hanging out on the streets are numerous.
"They include individuals on the sidewalks, behavior of dogs, littering, urinating and defecating, drinking in public, drug use and sales, arguments, fights, people with mental health challenges who act out and general problematic behavior," Kusmiss said.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408.