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UC Berkeley parents hire private security to patrol the area around campus

Some parents of students at the University of California, Berkeley, hired private security guards to patrol the campus, something the school says should be left to campus police.

The group called SafeBearssays it represents more than 1,300 parents of students at the university. It said it decided to hire the security guards after several crimes involving students last year, including a carjacking near a student house And another close to campus.

The university, which has about 45,000 students, said in a statement that the hiring raised concerns about training and experience, and that “university funds would be better spent hiring more” campus police officers.

Jonathan Simon, a professor of criminal justice at UC Berkeley, said in a statement that he understood why parents were concerned about safety, but that there was no evidence that the risk at the university was exceptional.

“I just don’t see how this stunt can do anything to significantly change those risks. Rather, it reflects the relative privilege of the parents involved,” he said.

It would be better to keep the gym open 24 hours a day and build well-lit running and jogging paths so that students have more space to stay on campus in the evenings, he added.

Parents are on edge after a pair of high-profile crimes on college campuses. In February, the body of a 22-year-old Augusta University nursing student was found in a wooded area on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.

SafeBears — the name is a nod to the UC Berkeley mascot — spent more than $40,000 to hire the security guards through a contractor. From March 6 to 23, six “safety ambassadors” in bright yellow jackets patrolled areas near the school but not on campus from 6:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. The areas were chosen because of recent crime reports, parents said.

“I have heard from many students who expressed gratitude and relief when they said they saw our security officers patrolling the campus,” said Sagar Jethani, the president of SafeBears, whose twin sons are sophomores at the university.

According to a statement from the group, all people SafeBears hired have undergone background checks.

They also received at least 32 hours of security personnel training. They did not have pepper spray, batons, handcuffs or other “defensive equipment,” the statement said.

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