Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

“Four Corners” Neighborhood Meeting Addresses Civil Unrest Preparedness

Last night, a group of local neighborhood associations, who have dubbed themselves the “Four Corners” because they represent four neighborhoods that come together at the intersection of Wilshire and La Brea, hosted an online emergency preparedness discussion focusing on situations of civil unrest. The organizing groups included the Miracle Mile Residential Association, Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, La Brea Hancock Homeowners Association, and the newly formed 6th Street Miracle Mile Association.


The “Four Corners” neighborhoods that come together at the intersection of Wilshire and La Brea.


SSNA president Conrad Starr opened the presentations with an overview of the general area, which is represented and protected by – in addition to the four neighborhood associations – a rather extensive mix of three Neighborhood Councils (Greater Wilshire, Mid City West and P.I.C.O), two city council districts (4 and 5), one LAPD division (Wilshire), three LAPD Basic Car Areas/Senior Lead Officers, two fire stations, and several business and civic associations.


Neighborhood Councils that represent the neighborhoods.


Starr noted that violence from local protests earlier this year did make some incursions onto local streets, which caught many people by surprise. But he said that doesn’t need to be the case in the future, and that even though there are several national situations coming up that could provide more flashpoints, it is possible for neighborhoods to prepare for incidents of unrest.

For the most part, Starr said, both individuals and communities can prepare for civil unrest in exactly the same way they do for other kinds of emergencies, such as earthquakes, after which there may be events such as looting, vandalism, fires and assaults.

So just as we would to prepare for an earthquake, Starr said, everyone can prepare for other kinds of emergencies by stocking up on supplies that would allow you to shelter in place for several days, have a “go bag” ready in case you need to leave, and making sure you have a family meetup plan if you get separated.



Meanwhile, Starr said, it’s also important to know how to access reliable news and information when an emergency is happening, know how to communicate accurate information, and know how to make accurate reports to city responders in both emergency and non-emergency situations. For eample, he said, reliable news sources can include both commercial media outlets…



…and social media feeds from city departments and first responders.



But it’s also very important, Starr said, to make sure your news sources are reliable.



As an example of unreliable information, Starr recalled an incident from earlier this year in which Sycamore Square neighbors smelled smoke and heard fire alarms going off at the Wilshire-La Brea development at the SE corner of Wilshire and La Brea.  Many people quickly assumed – and immediately sent out posts on social media saying – that the development was on fire.  But further monitoring of more reliable news sources soon revealed that although there was a fire, it was at least a mile south of the area, and the alarms at the local building were just a false alarm and coincidence…so there was no need at all for anyone in our area to panic.



In particular, Starr recommended using the Pulse Point app, which monitors actual LAFD calls, and not relying only on crowd-sourced apps like NextDoor and/or Citizen, both of which can amplify early rumors rather than provide accurate information, especially as a situation is developing.

Next up in the program, Kari Garcia, head of the MMRA safety committee, provided tips for neighborhood organizing, including contact lists and formal emergency plans, CERT training for neighbors, and establishing a network of block captains.



She also emphasized building connections with other neighborhood organizations and businesses…



…and the importance of organizing your individual block and not just the larger neighborhood, because it’s the people on your own block who will be most likely to look out for each other during an emergency.

Finally, Garcia also recommended establishing a walkie-talkie-based two-way radio network, to make sure you can stay in touch with neighbors if other communications (like cell phone networks) are disrupted.



Next, up, LAPD Wilshire Division Captain Shannon Paulson addressed the issue of civil unrest, both past and present, noting that her first day with LAPD was April 27 1992, just three days before the Rodney King riots broke out.  Paulson said she has taught classes for the Department of Homeland Security, and has both a military intelligence background and a “passion” for emergency preparedness, so she loves to talk about this kind of community effort.


LAPD Wilshire Division Captain Shannon Paulson, addressing community members in the online “Four Corners” forum last night.


When comparing the 1992 riots to those in Los Angeles earlier this year, Paulson said there have been some notable differences.  First, she said, there have been no deaths in the events this year, even when things have turned violent.  At the same time, however, she said this year’s protests and riots have been “far more violent” when it comes to protestors targeting police officers.  Also, she said, social media – which didn’t exist in 1992 – has provided a platform for “militarized” acts of violence, and that LAPD has ample evidence of people who came to what were supposed to be peaceful protests with “the full intent of creating a violent encounter.”  She said police have found backpacks filled with things like lighter fluid, bottles filled with ice, urine and feces, and vehicles staged at strategic locations, filled with weapons.  She said police also found caches of arms near protest sites in the days before the scheduled events.  In short, she said, the events that sparked the ’92 riots and this year’s protests had similar social justice origins, but the difference in tactics used by those who disrupted the protests was “very stark.”

Paulson also said, however, that it’s still too soon to tell if there’s any real threat of more violence in coming weeks and months, and affirmed that the “vast majority” of our local protests, which are stil continuing, are “completely valid” First Amendment-based activities, on both sides of the political spectrum.  She said LAPD’s main concern is not the protests themselves, but those who identify as “anarchists and “Antifa,” and who are not interested in social injustice, but instead show up specifically to engage in “acts of violence and anarchy.”  She said those individuals “take advantage of the anonymity the crowd provides.”

At the same time, though, Paulson was also careful to note that many of the local social justice groups organizing protests have been actively working to identify and keep potential disruptors out of their events, even to the point of re-routing their marches at the last minute, if they hear would-be disruptors are staking out a previously-announced route.  “There’s a difference,” Paulson reiterated, “between protestors and rioters.”

As Starr and Garcia said earlier, Paulson agreed that communities can prepare for civil unrest as they do for other kinds of emergencies, and that efforts to organize and bring neighbors together before something bad happens is very important.  “I’ll be completely honest,” she said,” The effort to come together as a neighbohood and stand together is huge.” And, she said, “being not just the silent majority, but the visible majority” in a neighborhood is also very effective.  “Bullies can’t act with impunity” when people stand together to protect their communities.

Paulson also said that people can prepare, as they do to fight other kinds of crime, by “hardening the target” with things like better lighting around their homes, and putting up signs announcing the presence of security cameras, which will deter many opportunistic criminals.

Still, Paulson emphasized again that there are no reasons to be overly worried at this point.  She said that while some people have been concerned to see our local CVS stores boarding up their windows, CVS’s parent company actually has a region-wide standing directive requiring its stores to board up any time there’s even a hint of potential unrest.  Paulson said other kinds of businesses can take simpler measures to protect their premises, such as emptying cash drawers every night, and leaving the drawers open, so anyone looking through the windows can see there’s no money there.

Finally in last night’s speaker lineup, representatives of SSA Security, explained that private security firms such as theirs can help protect their customers in times of unrest, but that they are a very small organization (with just three cars patrolling our local neighborhoods).  And as well trained as their staff members are (all are former law enforcement officers), one of them still wouldn’t be able to hold off a crowd of 200 people…though they can be a valuable resource for providing intelligence to the police during a larger emergency.  The SSA reps noted, however, that there was only incident in 1992, and none this year, in which riot activity moved into a residential area…so it’s not generally something people should be afraid of.

And Paulson agreed with that, saying, “even rioters have a limit they won’t go to.”  That said, however, she also explained that police and fire responders do prioritize situations, and if both residential and commercial areas are in trouble, those personnel will repond first to the residences.

Finally, the discussion moved to questions from the audience.

Starr asked if it’s better, in a life-threatening emergency during which responders may be overloaded, to call or to text 911.  Paulson said that if there are two people available, it may be best to do both, because you never know which dispatcher might be more available at any given moment.  She said calling 911 is often better because it’s easier for the dispatcher to ask questions and get full details of the situation…but the 911 text system was developed, in particular, for situations (such as domestic abuse) in which the caller may need to be silent and/or to attach photos. So they each have benefits for different situations.

Next, La Brea Hancock resident Bob Eisle said he was told by police in 1992 that putting trash bins in a zigzag pattern down the middle of the street might help protect a neighborhood from an incursion during a riot…and Paulson said that can be true, but it can also impede entry to the block by police and fire vehicles if they’re needed.  Also, the bins can be used as weapons against the police, if they’re at hand during a riot.

The session closed with thank-yous from the organizers, and an invitation from 6th Street Miracle Mile representative Barbara Gallen for neighbors in that area to join the new association (which was formed just recently in repsponse to concerns with the proposed Mirabel development at 5411 Wilshire Blvd.)


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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  1. And yet Los Angeles city council voted to defund the police just weeks after the riots. Stop voting for candidates who are soft on crime.

  2. The Buzz reported that LAPD Wilshire Division Captain Shannon Paulson in discussing recent protests said that “LAPD’s main concern is not the protests themselves, but those who identify as ‘anarchists’ and ‘Antifa,’ and who are not interested in social injustice, but instead show up specifically to engage in ‘acts of violence and anarchy.’ She said those individuals ‘take advantage of the anonymity the crowd provides.’” That is an incomplete view of events. What Officer Paulson neglected to mention is how white supremacist militias have been infiltrating Black Lives Matter protests around the country including the recent ones in Los Angeles with the sole purpose of inciting violence, destruction of property, and looting. These groups are well funded and well trained. They often go unnoticed perhaps because they are white. But they are dangerous, well armed, and well funded. Recently the FBI arrested 13 members of an extremist right wing domestic terrorist group for plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan. Those are the kinds of people who are the most dangerous and most destructive. Antifa is not an organized group. Some law enforcement officials follow President Trump in using the term to distract from real threats and to dismiss protesters who have legitimate grievances.


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