Safe Bears: UC Berkeley parents hire private security group to make students safer

Lauren Martinez Image
Friday, March 8, 2024
Safe Bears: UC Berkeley parents hire private security for students
UC Berkeley parents are stepping in to make the campus safer for students, hiring their own private security group called Safe Bears.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Parents are stepping in to make a safer UC Berkeley.

Cal parents hired their own private security group called Safe Bears.

The organization formed out of concerns that there weren't enough measures or resources to keep students safe.

Sagar Jethani is a father of twin boys attending UCB and the president of Safe Bears.

"Sometimes Cal students, it's easier for them to assume that the risks they face every day in Berkeley are just part of normal life- but it's not," Jethani said.

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Shortly after his sons started school in the fall of 2022, Jethani said there was a shooting outside their dormitories.

"When we confront the administration with our concerns and with solutions, we tend to hear the same sort of excuses, well we're in an urban environment, it's hard to hire police officers right now," Jethani said.

With the help of parents, community members and donors - more than $40,000 was raised so Safe Bears could hire the company Streetplus.

Starting this week, six safety ambassadors wearing bright yellow jackets will patrol different areas either on foot or by bike from 6:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. every night.

Teresa Brooks is one of the ambassadors.

"Oh it feels good and I appreciate helping people," Brooks said.

Jethani said the ambassadors have completed different certifications.

"They all have California 'Guard Cards' which means they've undergone criminal background checks with the California Department of Justice as well as the FBI," Jethani said. "They've also done at least 32 hours of security guard training. They're all trained how to talk somebody down- de-escalation techniques."

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The safety ambassadors are not armed or carry defensive gear. They have radios to communicate with one another and contact with the Berkeley Police Department in case an incident gets serious.

The safety ambassadors don't step foot on university campus property- just on public roads and sidewalks around the university where students live and study.

Analise Guiterrez and Vista Mehrshahi are both freshmen at UCB.

"Personally I don't feel very safe on campus and I just always have to be aware of my surroundings that's something that's always on the back of my mind," Mehrshahi said.

"I think it's a really good thing- it's kind of what Berkeley stands for- we kind of have to fight for the things you want and people do protest, like campaign for the things they want so I think it's really good that they're doing that," Guiterrez said.

The safety ambassadors' role is to provide a physical deterrence to any threats against students.

For now this will be a pilot program that will run until the end of the month.

"I fully believe that the administration cares about student safety. But - we just don't see enough urgency on their part to actually get it done," Jethani said.

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