More than 50 residents gathered last night at a meeting of homeowners in Hancock Park to discuss recent crimes in the neighborhood. Resident after resident told LAPD officials they no longer feel safe in their neighborhood. One recounted walking with their dog and witnessing four crimes within the span of a week. Another asked why the City of LA doesn’t install cameras in the intersections, like European cities, and wondered how she could feel safe walking the streets of New York City but not feel safe in Hancock Park, where she’s lived for more than 70 years.
A recent home invasion on Hudson Avenue in the middle of the day, and a robbery at gun point of two teen aged boys walking home from the school bus, were cited by residents as examples of how criminals are emboldened to commit crimes because there’s no one to deter them.
Virtually, everyone, including Captain Anthony Oddo and the four other officers at the meeting, agreed that more police cars patrolling the neighborhood are needed. Fortunately, by shifting existing resources, Oddo said the LAPD will be adding 2 additional patrol cars to the Wilshire Division. It’s part of a city-wide effort to deploy more officers on the ground and reduce the numbers of specialized task forces.
City Council Member David Ryu, who attended part of the meeting, said the new officers are the result of increases to the police department’s budget, which allowed them to hire officers and assign clerical duties to other staff. He also lauded the neighborhood association for its leadership in organizing the community. Ryu said that public safety is a personal priority for him, which is why he fought to get on the public safety committee of the City Council, and that he would continue to push for more officers.
Detective Joe Alves and Captain Oddo both pointed to recent changes in the law required by Propositions 47 and 57 that reclassified felonies and misdemeanors. The upshot of this is that criminals spend a lot less time in jail. Oddo stopped short of saying that this is the definite cause of the increase in crimes recently, but said the correlation could be seen anecdotally and should be studied further.
In the meantime, Oddo said private security companies like SSA and ADT are very helpful partners to LAPD. But he still urged residents to call LAPD if a crime is in progress, and also after a crime has been committed, so it can be counted in local precinct crime stats. He admitted it may take time for a patrol to get there if it’s not a crime in progress, but he still urged residents to report crimes.
Despite feeling overwhelmed, there’s still much that residents can do to protect themselves reminded Detective Alves. Starting with simple things like locking your doors…all the way to installing sophisticated security systems, with apps that allow you to answer your door remotely.
“Lock your doors and windows, use lights and timers, and talk to your neighbors,” said Detective Alves.
Thirty-four percent of crimes committed last month were from unsecured properties, where the door or window was unlocked. Alves said that number can fluctuate to as high as 41 percent.
Over the course of an hour, Alves and Oddo took questions from the audience covering a range of issues and offering suggestions for ways to prevent becoming a victim of a crime, including the following:
- If someone knocks on your door, it’s best to respond to let them know you are home, but don’t open the door.
- Listen to your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, call the police. Call 911 if it’s an emergency, like a crime in progress. If not, call 877-ASK LAPD or 877-275-5273. “Don’t call the station,” explained Hancock Park Security Committee chair Peter Gorelick, who also volunteers at the Wilshire station. “Patrols are not dispatched from the station. It’s best to call the main communications number at 877-ASK LAPD or 877-275-5273.”
- Lock your utility box, if you can, so criminals won’t cut the power to turn off an alarm.
- Loud, audible alarms are the best deterrent. Criminals have been captured of video footage fleeing the scene when the home alarm goes off. Signs that you have an alarm are also effective.
- If you see a car parked with a rental car bar code in the windshield and think it could be suspicious, write down the license plate or take a photo. but don’t do anything to endanger yourself.
- Video are great but they are often useful after a crime has occurred. Be vigilant and keep an eye for your neighbors.
- Ask a neighbor to pick up your mail or newspapers. Don’t let things pile up if you are not home.
- Barking dogs are a good deterrent.
- If your car has keyless entry, store your key away from the front door or in a metal container.
- To avoid “Porch Pirates,” consider having packages delivered to your office or a lock box or pick them up. Mail slots where the mail lands in a secure place are best.
- Gates and hedges can add security and privacy, but they also give criminals a place to hide, too.
At the end of the meeting, Peter Gorelick introduced representatives of SSA Security and ADT who offered residents additional options for security.
Gorelick said police are responding to 1,000 calls a week and urged residents to consider signing up for a private patrol. Currently there is one patrol car each for SSA and ADT in Hancock Park, and another in Windsor Square, with only about half the residents signed up. If more residents would sign up, Gorelick said, another patrol car would be added. Residents agreed that more neighbors need to sign up, noting that LAPD resources are stretched too thin and if people want more security they may need to pay for it directly and support the efforts of neighbors already paying for private patrols.