Nighttime southside
The new UCPD special duty unit will focus on nighttime crime south of campus, including underage drinking. Photo: UCPD

The University of California Police Department has created a new nighttime special duty unit in Berkeley to step up its efforts to address safety and security needs south of campus.

UCPD’s Lt. Eric Tejada said the move was prompted by a desire to be more agile in responding to crime trends.

“We’ve developed a special projects unit without affecting our normal staffing,” he said

The unit comprises one sergeant and four officers and will focus on issues such as underage drinking, robberies and drug dealing in People’s Park. The unit, which began patrolling on Jan. 7, will normally work from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Tejada said cell phone robberies of a particular type have been on the increase recently — as evidenced by their frequent appearance in Berkeleyside’s Berkeley crime round-ups. Criminals ask students or others near the university if they can borrow a phone, perhaps to call a sick member of their family. The victims either give their phone to the criminals, or give away the location of their phone by reaching for it. The criminals take the phone and drive off in a vehicle

In a statement UCPD said: “With robberies occurring just off the campus, and concerns about ongoing illegal activity in People’s Park, the SDU was created to augment the already successful joint efforts of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) and UCPD in their Telegraph Area Patrol (TAP). The SDU is also working with local task forces, such as the Alameda County Vice Enforcement Team (ACVET) to address core issues such as underage drinking. Underage drinking is often the cause of medical emergencies, fights, and sexual assaults. On a recent south campus operation with the ACVET, the SDU issued 20 citations for furnishing alcohol to a minor, made two felony arrests (for drugs and for a Parolee at Large), and made one misdemeanor arrest for DUI.”

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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...