Last Thursday, February 8, the Brookside neighborhood became the latest of many in our area to hold a meeting on the topic of neighborhood security. With property crimes up lately all over the city, our local neighborhoods have often felt like ground zero to residents suffering residential break-ins and thefts from motor vehicles, as well as to neighbors who haven’t yet suffered any break-ins but fear they could be next.
The Brookside meeting, held at Memorial Branch Library, attracted about 50 residents, many of whom have had break-ins at their homes, and most or all of whom seem to feel an increasing need for both more and more visible security measures in the area.
The meeting opened with neighbor Lew Shomer reporting on a survey he conducted recently to see how many Brookside residents would be interested in contributing to the cost of a dedicated private security car for the neighborhood. According to Shomer, the survey was distributed to all residents on the neighborhood mailing list, as well as through local social media channels. There were responses from 125 households (about 25% of the total in the neighborhood), he said, and of those 125, 72 people said they’d be willing to pay up to $500 a year for a dedicated neighborhood security car, and another 41 said they’d be willing to pay $100-$500 per year. Shomer said that ADT Security, which currently provides patrol services to about 50 or 60 neighborhood households, quoted an estimated price of about $88,000 a year for a car that would cover just Brookside, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If all the households who said they’d contribute actually did, Shomer said, they would raise about $77,000 for such a car. Schoener said that now that he has the survey responses, he will go back to both ADT and SSA Security (which also provides patrol service for Brookside and other adjacent neighborhoods) for a firmer quote and more specific information about their services.
Next, Mario Escobar, representing ADT, spoke to the group about what a private security patrol can and can’t do for the neighborhood. While a dedicated car would be located in the neighborhood at all times and would be available to respond to calls immediately, Escobar said, he also cautioned residents that the patrol person could only legally enter the yards and homes of people who are officially ADT patrol subscribers. So if a patrol person saw a crime in progress, they could respond quickly and report it to LAPD, but they could not set foot on the property unless the homeowner was a subscriber. Also, Escobar said, private security personnel can watch people on the street, ask people if they need assistance, and report suspicious activity…but they are not allowed to approach people on public streets or sidewalks to ask them what they’re doing, or to leave the area, unless they are clearly engaged in suspicious activity (just sitting in a car, walking around, or sitting around does not count). And this is true, he said, for security personnel working for any private company, not just ADT.
After Escobar, Kimberly Morosi, Community Resource Specialist for the City Attorney’s Neighborhood Prosecutor Program, talked about how local neighborhood prosecutors, who work closely with each of our LAPD divisions, can help with prosecution of specific nuisance properties in the neighborhood. Morosi explained that the Department of Building and Safety is the agency in charge of enforcing property-related violations, but if DBS citations are ignored or situations escalate, the Neighborhood Prosecutor may be able to force a hearing or bring criminal charges against the violators. Several residents at the meeting expressed dissatisfaction with the city’s past efforts of enforcing violations at vacant properties in the neighborhood, and Morosi invited them to contact her directly with questions about those specific cases.
Next on the agenda, Peje Kharrazi and another neighbor introduced a pilot program for a neighborhood watch they’re organizing on the 800 and 900 blocks of S. Mullen and S. Muirfield Avenues. Kharrazi, whose home was broken into while his family was on vacation over the Christmas holiday, said they have been collecting contact information from every household on the block, and are setting up group text lists that can be used to alert people via text and instant message, block by block, in all kinds of emergency situations. After they are done organizing the test area, Kharrazi said, they said they will report back to the larger group on how the new system is working.
LAPD Senior Lead Officer Hebel Rodriguez and Burglary Detective Joe Alvez closed out the meeting. Rodriguez explained how two LAPD cars patrol each “basic car area” of Wilshire Division’s territory during each shift, every day. While those cars are on duty at all times, however, and while they definitely do patrol the streets of Brookside (and each of our other local neighborhoods), Rodriguez noted that if the patrol officers are busy with other calls, or if they’re back at the station working on paperwork or booking a suspect, their response time to incoming calls can be delayed. Rodriguez said, however, that LAPD has recently added some extra officers to the division, and has also created a Special Problems Unit to address violent crimes and robberies. (That unit is currently focusing on areas near Melrose Ave., which has seen a recent increase in violent crimes.) Property crimes like burglaries and car break-ins, which are Brookside’s current concern, do tend to be of slightly lower priority for the police than the more violent crimes being seen elsewhere at the moment.
Finally, Detective Alvez acknowledged that he and others on the agenda were there because “LAPD failed in one way or another,” as evidenced by the rising crime rates. Still, however, Alvez said LAPD has “more checks and balances than any [police] department in the world.” He also noted that the department now has 10,000 officers on the street (up from 8,000 not long ago), and that they are doing all they can to fight crime. “We do so much, we try so hard for you,” he said. “It kills me to come here and not have great news.” Alvez also noted that even when the police do make a big arrest (as with one suspect recently arrested for stealing more than $200,000 worth of items from area homes), those individuals often spend just a day or two in jail before being released on bail. “That is the reality,” he said, reminding residents once again to always lock their doors and to make it harder for would-be thieves to take advantage of unsecured homes and vehicles.