Officer Karen Buckheit addresses neighbors at town hall meeting. Photo: Diana Arbas

By Diana Arbas

Summer has officially begun, bringing warmer weather and increased crime.

At a town hall meeting last week hosted by Councilman Darryl Moore, an officer from the Berkeley Police Department gave San Pablo Park neighbors tips on how to protect themselves against crime and report suspicious activity. In turn, the neighbors challenged police and city officials to do their part addressing area burglaries and youth nuisance.

Officer Karen Buckheit, Area 4 Coordinator, credited the neighbors for police success in catching repeat youth offenders. She encouraged the neighbors to continue calling in suspicious activity.

Youth burglars have been relatively brazen, breaking into homes in the middle of the day, Buckheit said. These burglaries haven’t been limited to the Acton and Dohr streets by San Pablo Park, either. The same youth burglars have been found in the Berkeley hills and east of Sacramento Street.

Buckheit said that it’s difficult for police to catch burglars without neighbors’ help.

“We don’t necessarily know who lives where,” Buckheit told the neighbors, “but you guys do. You guys think, ‘I don’t recognize that person in my neighbor’s yard. I know who my neighbor is; I know who their kids are.’ You can see things that we can’t see.”

One neighbor had even photographed a burglar and sent it to the police, who were able to identify the person the next day. “It worked out great,” Buckheit said. “Now I would never recommend that you do that if it’s just not safe.”

But proactive neighbors are key to community safety, she said. Neighbors should not hesitate to call the police dispatch if they see someone rattling a door or climbing out the window—“Most people use a door,” Buckheit quipped—and the sound of glass breaking warrants a 911 call.

Another red flag: someone’s hanging out in the traffic circle for an hour. “Kids are watching you go to the store, and they know you’ve left,” Buckheit said. “You might come back in an hour, and the place has been burglarized because somebody’s hanging out watching.”

But neighbors wanted to know what proactive steps the police have taken to keep the community safe.

Tae Kim, who had moved with his wife and baby to the neighborhood in September, pointed out that when nearby houses had been broken into, it took BPD three hours to respond to calls. “That was a bit disconcerting,” he said.

Kim hasn’t observed as much neighborhood police surveillance as he’d like.

“You see at times blatant drug transactions or kids just hanging out,” Kim said. “There are a lot of emails going back and forth about locking your doors, basic stuff that I would suspect people would do.”

More police action will make the neighborhood a safer place, said Kim. “I understand that you guys are busy, and it’s a hard job,” he said. “But I think it’s safe to say that we all want to live in a community where people feel safe and secure, especially with little kids.”

Marj Plumb, another San Pablo Park neighbor, said that women already don’t feel safe and secure at the park. Plumb and her partner live across the street from the park’s women’s restroom.

“The pot smoking in the women’s restroom by the neighborhood boys is incredible,” Plumb said. “It is so upsetting to me when I see a woman, or a man with a child, and the woman turns a corner with a kid and she can’t even get into the bathroom because there are eight kids in there.”

Plumb said that the boys are selling marijuana and shooting craps there.

“Is there anything we can do to make that a less attractive place for the kids to use?” Plumb said. “And if I call every time I see something, do you promise not to put me on a crazy list? ‘Cause I’ve done two or three calls in a week, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to stop answering.’ They’re going to be like, ‘That crazy lady from Park St. is calling about mope and dope again.’”

Buckheit said that BPD won’t put frequent callers on a list, and she acknowledged that gambling has been going on at the park for a long time. “But we do have limited resources—”

“I know you do,” Plumb said. “I think it’s a community, city, police problem—not just a police problem.”

Kim voiced a concern that youth burglars in general receive a minor slap on the wrist, and he asked about stronger measures for repeat juvenile offenders. He said he understands that kids might not have direction or they’re just young and dumb. “On the flip side, there’s a difference between youthful indiscretion and breaking into someone’s house,” he said.

Diana Arbas studies creative writing and journalism at Mills College. She is also the assistant news editor of The Campanil, the college’s student news organization. She is currently interning at Berkeleyside.

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Join the Conversation


  1. Allyson: I suggest you send an email to councilmember Darryl Moore’s council aide Ryan Lau and ask to be put on Moore’s email distribution list —

  2. Allyson: I suggest you send an email to councilmember Darryl Moore’s council aide Ryan Lau and ask to be put on Moore’s email distribution list —

  3. I also live across the street from San Pablo Park. I’ve lived here for several years but I didn’t know that this town hall was happening. I walk through the park and through the neighborhood twice a day with my dog and I didn’t see any information about the meeting. I have heard a few things about a neighborhood email list and I would like to get on it, but I don’t know how–can someone point me in the right direction? Thanks!

  4. Sad it’s so dangerous to call the police. They might get just have to kill a dog because it looked at them, or shoot someone because they pulled up their pants.

  5. Stripped of PC cant, you could boil this article down to:

    The natives are restless and it threatens to be a long hot summer

  6. My area was hit constantly. Mostly kids-some hired or used by their older friends or family because:
    1) They are smaller
    2) Get set free the minute they are arrested
    3) Stupid enough to do these stunts because they are teenagers
    4) Think the sad mount of money they can get this stuff on the street is worth the effort

    Many of the offenders are just commuting into Candyland Berkeley from Oakland and Richmond because the City has a great history of blasé enforcement of non-violent offenses.

    My neighbor also had their car keys stolen from tables and purses! That was the biggest hassle as they came back to swipe the car AND the rekeying of a modern car with electronic locks costs $1400 bucks!!

  7. The “look outs” and the offenders use our city parks as cover, watching and waiting for an opportunity, once they decide to take the risk, they will find a way into our homes, even breaking front windows facing the street. We need surveillance cameras on the CoB recreation centers to capture good photos for law enforcement ID purposes. Beat 12 has been hit hard as well, with some of the suspects routinely hanging out in the Oregon St park against the wall near the recreation center. Call in anyone that apprears to be hanging out on look out duty, the cops will drive by and check it out.

  8. I just looked up the crime statistics for BAS. Oh my god what a cesspool! Arson, vandalism,  robberies, dead bodies- and this is just at the San Pablo location!

    All that money cleaning up that dump of a campus when they should of placed the school right next to the police department. No wonder Berkeley is called ” Candyland” by thugs.

  9. When Berkeley Adult School  was on University Ave, I heard quite a few rumors about some of the things going on within it. The  criminal element  was alway well known as  many of the students were actually perps who had to attend classes or they would violate their parol. And then there’s a few teachers of a devious nature.  One nicknamed “Dr. X”, would continuously rant and rave about the evils of the US, Israel and white people and was known to  make advances to the ESL students he found to his liking. There was also something about  one teacher( a older women) who was fired  do  to her  involvement with Bay Area  criminals. What a shady, creepy, environment that place was. Education to the highest degree.LOL!

  10. “Kids” what Kids… These are Teenagers and some even grown adults that are in those restrooms and sitting on the fire hydrants and traffic circles watching people enter and exit their homes.

  11. Some problems that the neighbors of Berkeley Adult School have been
    voicing for the last 3 months (intensely) while suffering in silence for
    years. The City Council needs to take a careful look at their own
    policies and how they impact crime. At its core crime is perpetrated by creating conditions for attracting it in the first place.