More than 100 people gathered in southwest Berkeley Monday evening to discuss local crime. Photos: Tracey Taylor

Two weeks after two multiple shootings rattled southwest Berkeley residents, more than a hundred neighbors gathered in the gym at Berkeley Youth Alternatives on Bonar Street on Monday evening, just a few yards away from the first shooting, to discuss possible causes, as well as preventive measures.

According to the police, none of the men shot on the nights of March 2 and March 4 were local. They simply liked to hang out on the 2200 block of Bonar and on the 2100 block of Seventh Street. Both incidents, which do not appear to be connected, are still being investigated, according to Berkeley Police Lt. Dave Frankel who addressed the meeting. Berkeley Police do not believe they are gang-related and, Frankel added, not all the victims are “being cooperative.”

The fact that the victims do not live in the buildings is a sign neighbors and property owners can do more to prevent certain areas from becoming hang-out spaces, police said — by both securing buildings and coming together as a community to keep an eye out on brewing crime.

“We believe that sometime in the past [the victims] may have had associations with people living there, so their familiarity with the buildings made it easy for them to disappear down the driveway. One of the folks who was shot doesn’t live there but his car was parked in the parking lot of the apartment building,” Frankel said.

Cliff Johnson, the owner of two buildings in the 2000 block of Bonar Street, outside of which three men were shot at on March 2, is taking action now. He said he was doing whatever the police were recommending, which includes installing motorized gates and screen doors and hiring an off-site firm to monitor footage from existing security cameras.

Berkeley Police officer Cesar Melero said it was fortunate that the property owner in this case was so “responsive” and “responsible” and the audience showed its appreciation with a round of applause.

Left to right: Councilman Darryl Moore, Lt. Dave Frankel and officer Cesar Melero at the community meeting.

Presentations were made by the Berkeley Housing Authority, its housing inspection unit, and the city’s Problem Property Team. Berkeley’s interim city manager, Christine Daniel, was in the audience at the meeting, as was Councilman Max Anderson.

But several of those in the room felt attention was too focused on property and not on the lives of the young men who were getting into trouble in the neighborhood.

Todd Walker, who works closely with youth in Berkeley, said: “When all of you drive home and go back to your big houses, these kids are still going to be out here shooting dice. Don’t talk like these kids are nothing. Stop worrying about your property values and start saving these kids’ lives.”

And a resident of one of the Bonar apartment buildings under discussion suggested that the police needed to get to know the inhabitants better so they could distinguish them from the loiterers outside. Art Williams said police often take their time answering calls from residents such as himself then harass the residents. He added: “I’ve watched the police sit on the corner and watch kids 30-deep rolling dice.”

Councilman Darryl Moore, who called the meeting, said it boiled down to helping Berkeley’s disenfranchised youth find jobs, while Councilman Anderson saw the gathering as a good first step in addressing some of the safety problems. “If we isolate ourselves we don’t have a community,” he said.

Community meeting called in wake of Berkeley shootings [03.13.12]
Three men shot, wounded early Sunday in west Berkeley [03.05.12]
Three people shot on Bonar St, no life-threatening injuries [03.02.12] 

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...