New proposal calls for a zero tolerance policy for Occupy Berkeley. Photo: Lance Knobel

Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, whose 4th district includes Civic Center Park, today urged the city to adopt a health and safety plan for the Occupy Berkeley encampment. It calls for a zero tolerance policy on “all violations of the law and park rules, with the exception of camping in the park overnight”.

“We cannot wait. We have to take action now,” Arreguín said. “We have to be making it clear to people that the laws will be enforced. That will ensure health and safety while at the same time respecting peoples’ rights to assembly and free speech.”

Arreguín’s suggested guidelines for city staff and police comes a day after the city distributed notice to the Occupy Berkeley encampment that enforcement would be stepped up.

“The situation in the park is unacceptable,” the notice, from Acting Parks and Rec Director Scott Ferris, declared. “The City is concerned about the health and safety of both the members of the encampment and the general public, including school age children. To address this, City staff from various departments will inspect the park on a regular basis and will take enforcement action as necessary to respond to illegal activities, address unsanitary conditions, and keep people safe. This enforcement action could include, if necessary, citations (including citations for unlicensed and unvaccinated dogs) and arrests.”

In her memo to the mayor and city council accompanying a copy of the notice, Interim City Manager Christine Daniel cited “a substantial increase in illegal activities and safety violations”. Ferris’ notice included details of the activities that have been recorded by the police and other city departments (Berkeleyside published the police list last week).

Arreguín said his plan was also spurred by the increase in problems, as well as the growth in the encampment. He admitted there was a new urgency to the matter since he spoke to Berkeleyside last week. He said that he intended his plan to be a “helpful framework for staff to use”.

The framework singles out possession of weapons, assault and battery, theft, smoking, drinking in public and the presence of open containers, drug use and possession, littering, off-leash dogs and not cleaning up after dogs, and excessive noise at late hours as violations that would be covered by the zero tolerance policy.

The policy also suggests limiting the number of tents and says that “multiple violations of these laws and the zero tolerance policy or an imminent threat to public safety” may result in the city looking at removal of the encampment.

According to Arreguín’s framework, the city “should consider a reasonable date in which the encampment should transition to a daily demonstration or other forms of political assembly”.

How long can Occupy Berkeley last? [12.12.11]
Berkeley High concerned about Civic Park Occupy camp [12.01.11]
Occupy Berkeley remains, but experiment is proving fragile [11.28.11]
Occupy Berkeley consolidates camp, supports Oakland [11.02.11]
All quiet at Occupy Berkeley camp at MLK Park [10.26.11]
Berkeley joins 900 cities to condemn corporate greed [10.16.11]
Wall Street protests come to Berkeley [10.09.11]

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...