Concerned Hancock Park Block Captains gathered last night to discuss recent crimes in the neighborhood and learn more about how residents can protect themselves and the neighborhood against an increasing number of property crimes.
CD4 Councilmember David Ryu kicked off the meeting by acknowledging a lack of resources at LAPD. Ryu said there’s also been a big turnover in LAPD leadership, as more and more of the City’s workforce is eligible for retirement. But he said he was encouraged by efforts from the department to shift scheduling to put an additional 53 officers on patrol city-wide, and new GPS technology allowing LAPD to plot the position of each police car, so the can respond more efficiently to calls for assistance.
Senior Lead Officer Dave Cordova, who’s been serving the neighborhood for 18 years, said statistics show that crime is up all over the City by .8%. The Wilshire Division, where Hancock Park is located, is ranked number 17 among the 21 districts in the City with an increase of 3.6%.
Burglaries and personal thefts make up the largest portion of the crimes in the area, Cordova said. Jewelry, cash and items that can be concealed in a backpack or on a person are most often stolen. The majority of the crimes are “knock, knock” burglarers. A thief will come to the front door and knock very loudly. Then, if no one answers, they go around back of the house to gain entry unseen. Often smashing windows, if necessary, to gain entry. According to Cordova, even though residents have alarms, only about half of them are set.
Also according to Cordova, burglaries are up 20%, but arrests are up 28%. He attributes the high arrest rate to devices like the Ring doorbell (a device that captures video of anyone who approaches, and alerts the owner on his or her smart phone), as well as coordination with private security companies who help educate people about who to call and good police work. But thanks to legislation that reduces sentencing for non-violent crimes, Cordova added, most criminals are back on the streets after serving very short terms in prison.
“Lock and secure your property,” advised Cordova, adding, “Long term, look at who and what you are voting for.”
Presentations by SSA and ADT, both of which offer private security services in the neighborhood, repeated much of the same advice for residents to secure their property, use their alarms and be alert. But residents were still frustrated with slow response times from LAPD, or — worse — no answer at all when calling 911.
Hancock Park HOA President Cindy Chvatal Keane said she was unable to reach anyone when she called 911 on Sunday afternoon to report a white male, mid 30s, exposing himself alongside a white van near Muirfield and 5th Street. Chvatal said she first called 911, and when no one answered after 5-6 rings, she called her husband and SSA…who both arrived within minutes and saw the suspect still in the neighborhood. According to Chvatal Keane, SSA was told not to pursue the suspect because he was driving erratically and could cause an accident. Regrettably, the suspect got away because LAPD could not get there in time. Another resident on June Street has seen the same man, a year ago.
Terry Seagraves, CEO of SSA, circulated a report from a resident in La Brea Hancock, who called to report a burglary in process last Wednesday. The resident had been notified by her alarm company while she was at work, but LAPD did not respond until almost an hour later. When the resident arrived, she found her dog has been stolen, along with some jewelry. The incident was widely reported on Nextdoor.com and eventually the dog was returned to her by some one who “purchased” the pet at a gas station on Crenshaw Blvd. and later saw a television news report about the theft.
Seagraves, a former LAPD officer, agreed there should be more 911 operators.
“There are 40 operators, there should be 400 for a city this size,” said Seagraves. “But things are much better than they used to be thanks to technology and other improvements in LAPD. Since SSA started serving the neighborhood in 1978, we have made over 75 arrests; 3 in the last week…including a male Hispanic with a shaved head, in what appeared to be “full gang attire,” vandalizing (tagging/graffiti) a traffic utility box on the southeast corner of 3rd and Highland.”
According to Seagraves, “The suspect was so involved in the graffiti, he failed to notice our SSA car. The SSA officer had observed an LAPD unit approximately 2 blocks west of the incident location on 3rd. He quickly made contact with the LAPD patrol unit (7A33), and had them follow him to where the suspect was applying his street art. Both SSA and LAPD took the suspect into custody and he was booked for vandalism.”
Seagraves says his patrol officers make a point to talk to everyone, even if they are not SSA clients, to learn what happened during a crime, and how burglars got into a house, so they can refine their patrol techniques. He also noted that everyone in an SSA car is a police officer, either recently retired or off duty.
In his presentation, ADT representative Steve Kushner also advised residents to use their alarms, even when are home. And unlike LAPD, Kushner said, ADT does not charge a fee for false alarms.
Hancock Park HOA Security Committee chair Peter Gorelick urged residents to encourage their neighbors to sign up for one of the private security services, saying only 600 of the 1200 homes in the neighborhood have private security.
In other news of interest to residents at the HPHOA meeting, Council Member Ryu reported that there is now $800,000 in the city budget for concrete street repairs, though not all the funds are designated for Hancock Park. However, Ryu said the funds would be apportioned to neighborhoods where concrete repairs are required by law, as in the case with Hancock Park’s HPOZ, which requires maintenance of the concrete streets. Ryu said he is also hopeful that Measure M funds would soon be available for more street repairs, and that he will call upon residents to help rally support for spending 50% of the money expected to return to local communities from the tax on street repairs.
Ryu spent about 45 minutes at the meeting taking questions from residents on how to access city services for street lighting on June Street, where lights seem to go off each time there’s a power outage…as well as removal of trash and graffiti on Beverly Boulevard, along the fencing adjacent to the Wilshire Country Club. Ryu urged everyone to use the MyLA311 smartphone app to make a service request to the city in such cases, because it creates a record of the request and a uses GPS data to pinpoint the location. When residents complained further, Ryu said and his field deputy, Catherine Landers, have been working to address a number of these issues, but he acknowledged that he, too has been especially frustrated in his efforts to maintain the Highland Avenue median, which he shares jointly with CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz. He said he hopes there will soon be a better long-term solution to finding contractors willing to do the sprinkler and landscaping maintenance, as well as clean up and graffiti removal.