On December 8, the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) shared a press release stating that Christopher Dalton, a 32-year-old Oakland resident, was arrested on three charges. He was suspected of intentions of communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex act, bothering or molesting a child with a prior offense, and a violation of parole.
Within the last few months, there have been three reports of a man in his early 30s following teen girls, one of whom was on Gilman and walking to Berkeley High School (BHS) at the time. The first was reported on September 29, the second on December 6, and the third on December 7, though this event had occurred back on August 25. According to the witnesses, in two of the three incidents, he cornered the victims, claimed to be a cop, and threatened them with a weapon, telling them that they had to hug him. In all situations, the girls were able to get away quickly.
Dalton was arrested recently after a third witness shared new information, including a picture of a license plate.
According to the Megan’s Law website of the California Department of Justice, Dalton was convicted of similar charges in 2013, and was imprisoned for two years. He was put on parole in 2015.
Partly because of the social media platform Nextdoor, as well as an email sent around to Berkeley parents, word spread quickly about Dalton, and some parents grew concerned.
Maxine Skaggs Kennedy, a parent of students in the Bay Area, wrote in an email that “it feels lucky that he hasn’t forcibly abducted someone yet, or physically hurt them.”
She encouraged kids to take extra precautions.
“Speak to your teens about being alert and aware,” Hanna G. wrote on Nextdoor. She advised, “Stay off phones. No headphones, walk with someone when you can. Change your walking routes or routines once in a while.”
Tucker Gibbons, a BHS senior, said that her mother sent her the article while she was at school. She also said that she lives near where the harassment occurred, and that she feels slightly unsafe about it.
Though Dalton did commit a felony and violate a parole agreement, some in Berkeley don’t feel like enough will be done.
“They will let him out on the street once more to harass other women … wait and see!” wrote Karen Bruhns on Nextdoor.
“It makes me feel really disgusted in our society, that it is so normalized,” said BHS freshman Emma Kittredge.
Most people the Jacket spoke to were unsure how to prevent future incidents of stalking and harassment.
“It’s hard to say if there is a prevention unless cops are put on every corner,” Gibbons wrote to the Jacket.
Tallulah Owsley, another freshman, agreed. She said that she was “scared to know that this is the way our society is right now.”
Rhetta Lavinder-Hill, another BHS freshman, believes that ending sexualization of women begins with changing society’s perception of sexual harm as a whole.
“We need to change what our society thinks and says about this stuff,” Lavinder-Hill said. “Don’t joke about it. … Don’t wait for it to get bad. Address it before then.”