GWNC Holds Town Hall Session on Crime at Monthly Board Meeting

LAPD Senior Lead Officers, Detectives and Captains with Town Hall organizers Kari Garcia, Julie Stromberg and Tammy Rosato at last Thursday’s meeting.

With crime rates up and many local neighborhoods beginning to organize neighborhood watches and holding community meetings on crime prevention in recent months, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council joined the crime-fighting efforts and held its own Town Hall meeting on crime and crime prevention just before its regular monthly meeting last Wednesday, March 14.

Crime Town Hall

GWNC Board Member Julie Stromberg hosted the Town Hall, and introduced the the session by reciting some recent crime statistics – property crimes in the general Greater Wilshire area are up by 1.6% this month, and up by 12.6% this year.  Altogether, Stromberg said, there have been 604 reported crimes this month in LAPD’s Wilshire and Olympic divisions, including 161 residential burglaries, seven attempted burglaries, 121 thefts from motor vehicles and three attempted thefts from motor vehicles.

The statistics are, Stromberg said, “The wakeup call we all need to recognize.”

Stromberg said that LAPD statistics show that burglaries happen at all times of the day, and last about six minutes if an alarm goes off, or longer if there is no alarm…and sometimes the burglars return for a second visit after the first.  Also, while a big arrest in January did slow down the burglary rate a bit, Stromberg said police report that there are several crews working in the area right now, so a single arrest doesn’t solve the problem.

Stromberg said at least part of the crime increase has been attributed to several recent changes in laws, including AB109 (which switches some incarcerations from state prison to county jails and changes or eliminates some paroles), Proposition 47 (reduces some drug possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors), Proposition 57 (allows parole for some non-violent felons), and Proposition 64 (legalizes cannabis use in California)…as well as increases in drug use (which motivates people to steal things they can sell to buy drugs), and a lack of crime reporting (if police don’t hear about break-ins, even when nothing is stolen, they don’t know something happened and can’t devote resources to addressing the problem).

Stromberg then introduced two area residents, Tammy Rosato, from the La Brea-Hancock neighborhood, and Kari Garcia, from Miracle Mile, who talked about their own efforts to insitute active neighborhood watches in their areas.

Rosato said she and her husband, Frank, first got involved with the issue by enrolling in LAPD’s Community Police Academy, which provides community members with a broad-based introduction to the many facets of the LAPD.  After that class, Rosato and her husband also joined the Wilshire Division Community Police Advisory Board, which meets monthly to discuss area crime issues and police response.

And at that point, Rosato and her husband decided to get her neighbors involved and began the neighborhood watch efforts.  They printed up fliers introducing themselves, distributed them door to door, and held an initial organizing meeting, where they signed up neighbors to be block captains to help with collecting neighbors’ contact information and setting up contact procedures for all kinds of emergencies.

Garcia, who did much the same thing in her Miracle Mile neighborhood, said she was spurred to act after her car was broken into, her house was burglarized and then yet another nighttime prowler cut the power to her house while attempting yet another break-in.  At first, Garcia said, she was scared and angry, but then she realized that residents “can’t just get mad, go home and go on with our lives, and say we don’t have time” to deal with the crime problem.  Instead, she said she realized that “we are part of the problem – we’re not doing enough” to help prevent crime and deter criminals in our neighborhoods.

Garcia said that after she got to know her local LAPD officers in the aftermath of the incidents at her own home, she realized that we need to “change the way we live,” and to get to know each other – and the LAPD – better than we have in the past.  “I invite you to change the way you think,” she said.  “You’re not on an island.”  Instead, she said, it’s imperative for neighbors to get to know each other, and to watch out for each other, on their own blocks.  The benefit, she said, is that “life is better; you’re not afraid any more.  I want to empower you and help you feel strong.”

Stromberg, Rosato and Garcia were joined by a large group of LAPD representatives, including the Wilshire and Olympic Division captains, and a number of area Senior Lead Officers and Burglary detectives.

Wilshire Division Captain Anthony Oddo agreed with the need for neighbors to get to know each other, and for them to get to know LAPD and its resources better.  Oddo also noted that the Wilshire and Olympic Division police work very well and closely with each other, and share crime information, as well as information like vehicle and license plate descriptions when crimes are committed.  He stressed that LAPD is very interested in partnering with neighbors to deter crime, and said that when crimes do happen, “You’re not going to get excuses from us.”

Oddo’s counterpart from Olympic Division agreed, acknowledging that property crimes are “traumatic” for the victims, and he understands that people don’t feel safe when their homes are violated.

Agreeing with Rosato and Garcia, both of the LAPD captains urged community members to get involved in their local neighborhood watch, if there is one, or to start one if there isn’t.  It’s through those watches, they said, that neighbors can most effectively establish an official reporting and information system for their area, and make sure crime information is shared appropriately, both from neighbors to police, and from police back to the neighbors.  The captains also urged residents to install security cameras, if they don’t already have them, and to share photos and videos of suspicious activity through the neighborhood watches and to LAPD.  (Oddo did caution, however, to use discretion and share materials to the appropriate channels, especially when juveniles are involved, because not all such information turns out to be what was initially suspected.)

The captains also urged residents to stay in touch with LAPD by following their posts on social media (NextDoor, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), getting to know their Senior Lead Officers, and to attend the monthly CPAB meetings at either the Wilshire or Olympic Division police stations.

GWNC Board Meeting

After the Town Hall, the GWNC convened its regular monthly board meeting, where reports were shared about several upcoming GWNC-sponsored community events, including:

  • A Green Fair (Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Memorial Library Park), which will be co-sponsored by CD4 and the Koreatown Youth and Community Center and will include tree giveaways, information on how to adopt a more sustainable or “green” lifestyle ( from solar panels to electric vehicles to reducing food waste), as well as demonstrations exhibitors and sponsors, including EmpowerLA, Friends of Memorial LA High Library, LA Sanitation, LA Solar Group, Office of LA City Councilmember David Ryu and Slow Food Los Angeles.
  • An Emergency Preparedness Forum (Saturday, April 7, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., location TBD), which will feature speakers from Children’s Hospital LA, a structural engineer and apartment owner and manager talking about soft-story retrofits of local apartment buildings, as well as representatives from our local city Council offices.
  • A Drought-Tolerant Garden Tour (Sunday, June 3, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), which will also feature information on rain barrels.

In other business, the Board considered several Land Use applications, with the following decisions:

  • A vote to oppose an application for a Conditional Use Perit that would allow a local business to use previously unpermitted parking lots in the R1-1 zone at 946 and 947 S. Norton Ave.
  • A vote to oppose an application to demolish a single family residence and build a 4-unit Small Lot Subdivision project at 4827 W. Oakwood Ave.
  • A vote to support an application for a Conditional Use Permit to allow the sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at the Osteria Mamma restaurant at 5730 W. Melrose.
  • A vote to support the a periodic demonstration of compliance with operating conditions at the Yavneh Academy, 5353 W. 3rd St., and a request to increase the time between plan approvals from three to five years.
  • A vote to support a Conditional Use Permit for the continued sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at a new restaurant taking over the space at 706 N. Citrus Ave.
  • A vote to oppose as currently presented an application to build a 7-story, residential apartment buidling with 95 units and two levels of subterranean parking at 3323 W. Olympic Blvd. and 975-987 Manhattan Pl.
  • A vote to oppose – until further information is provided – an application to build a seven-story mixed use building with 114 apartments and 3,5550 square feet of retail space at 3323 W. Olympic and 970-996 W Manhattan Pl.
  • A vote to oppose – unless the applicant visits and presents the project to the GWNC Land Use Committee, in accordance with committee policies – an application for the renewal of a Conditional Use Permit to sell beer and wine for on-site consumption at the Genwa Restaurant, 5115 W. Wilshire Blvd.

All of the above votes were unanimous, with the exception of one abstention on the 5353 W. 3rd St. application.

The next GWNC Board Meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 11, 7 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles.

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