Illegal Juvenile Activity at the Palisades Rec Center

Fireeworks were thrown at participants at the park on February 23.


The illegal shooting of fireworks at the Palisades Recreation Center continues unabated. If a resident has captured a video/photo of a person/teen setting off fireworks, please send it to CTN and it will be posted. This editor, whose grandfather was killed by a large firework, will run the photo.

About the most recent activity on February 23, Palisades Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin wrote: I appreciate all the incoming information and pictures/videos of the ongoing activity in the park. As most of you know, I have the park on our directed patrol locations and officers check the park.

“Our Captains have released some overtime funds to have a couple units (patrol car and officers) to be deployed occasionally,” Espin said. “It is not something we can keep on a consistent basis.

“The problem we are facing is the kids wait until the Officers leave then they come out and begin their nuisance behavior. We have done an undercover operation in the park before. We will do another,” he said. “Our undercover Officers are constantly being utilized for a multitude of events and taskforces. When they are available in conjunction with regular days off and training, we will utilize them.

“The videos and pictures do help with documenting the activity,” Espin said. “If we can identify the individuals, then we have some information to follow up on. With most of the videos and pictures, we are not able to identify the individuals who a setting off the fireworks. I do believe that if we were able to install cameras where we can see the kids and identify them with clear pictures and or videos. Please continue to send me the videos and pictures, I use all the info to track and document the activity. I do believe that a dedicated security patrol specific for the park would be beneficial in deterring the activity. LAPD does not have the resources to monitor the park on a consistent basis.”

Kids and parents scrambled to avoid being hit by embers.

Pacific Palisades Community Council President Maryam Zar, who is also a Park Advisory Board member wrote CTN on February 25.

A few months ago, I asked Recreation and Parks (RAP) to allow us to hire a private security company to launch a security patrol plan at the Pali Rec Center. This was at the height of weekend shenanigans that worried both neighbors and the broader community about vandalism, fire risk, and youth violence. The community wanted to do something about it and looked to LAPD, RAP and PPCC for answers. 

I had had several conversations with LAPD (both captains and SLO) and knew they were giving us as much support as they could. To their credit, they give us as much as they can (as the crime numbers merit) plus discretionary expenditures in various support task forces, whenever possible. But it still wouldn’t be the kind of coverage the community seemed to be asking for, so I asked RAP to allow us, as a community, to hire private security – if that was in fact what we decided to do.

I asked LAPD who they’d like to interface with and after some discussion and caveats, was pointed to one local company that even went as far as to give us a quote. Notably, this model is not new to RAP – many years ago the baseball fields were built with RAP approval (and a right of entry) but community funds and community contractor working at the pace and price set by the group that raised funds to accomplish the task. When I took that info to RAP, I was told they’d be happy to get us a quote from a RAP-approved security vendor — and that quote has been secured for us. 

At the same time, PPCC has been working on finding a way to launch a camera pilot at the Rec Center with the possible extension into Potrero Canyon, if need be. That camera pilot plan has had many hoops – from regulatory to advocacy to funding and vendor choice.

Some of us have been working hard to line this all up (discussions with local law makers, LAPD, RAP and most recently Flock security as a vendor). We had identified Flock as a likely security partner for “condor” pan, tilt and zoom enabled cameras that we though seemed affordable and manageable (with the feed made available only to LAPD), but after the last PAB meeting, I was made aware that any camera strategy would have to go through RAP Tech. 

Sue Kohl, Park Director Jasmine Dowlatshahi, Ramone and I met with RAP tech person, James (Jimmy) Newsome a few weeks ago and he ruled out Flock. He said RAP now had an excellent camera system they could roll out at the Rec Center but needed a substantively upgraded electric system in order to implement a plan that included 15 cameras at least. His loose estimate was $500,000 or more.

I’d like to bring a plan (budget, timeline and contractor included) for both patrols and cameras to the community for discussion and decision. I’ll bring this to PPCC as a place for the discussion of ideas and the start of our collective community discussion. We will likely need to make a decision not only on planning but also funding and raising money to make anything happen (even if we advocate at the Council Office for funding – a suggestion made by RAP Tech).  — Maryam Zar

Park Director Jasmine Dowlatshahi wrote in an email to Zar about Friday night’s chaos.

“This is very disturbing, this is our reality now. The teens do this all right before our eyes and even when patrons and staff alert the teens they are being filmed.

“We have hired a Park Monitor and researched cameras however we cannot have the cameras until we have the proper lighting and poles [infrastructure]. This must be done by our department and will cost a total of $1,5 million approx. Recreation will fund a portion of it. However, we were told the community or perhaps the Council Office must assist with the funding as well.”

In a subsequent email she explained that the park monitor is Trentin Nelson. “He’s not a ranger. He simply monitors the park and the patrons. He asks them to stop or leave. He calls law enforcement; parking enforcement and he writes reports.

“We’re one of the only parks that was allowed to hire someone in this position,” Dowlatshahi said. “We have to pay him through our recreation center funding. So, it’s a big expense for us.

“The teens are beyond out of hand at this community. I have never seen anything like them,” she said. “They walk in groups of 30-50 and are not worried about people filming their behavior. It’s sad to see.”


(Editor’s note: the racing of e-bikes in the park in the evening has also been reported to police, repeatedly. This time a resident reported an incident on Sunset Boulevard.)

A resident reported to Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin that on February 16 at noon three teens were “racing bikes and popping wheelies through traffic on Sunset. We watched as they turned left on a red in front of a line of traffic, rode onto the sidewalk, then took their e-bikes into Chipotle.” The resident said that bystanders and motorists are put in peril by these riders.

Espin responded, “Unfortunately, we are not able to cite individuals for traffic violations unless it’s witnessed by a law enforcement at the time. If any of these kids do violate any traffic laws or any crime where Officers are able to do enforcement, we will do the appropriate investigation for the activity.

“Those bikes (super 73) which is a class 2 or 3 electric bike just like a regular pedal bike are legal and have the right to be in the street. They do have to obey all the traffic laws as a regular bicyclist would. If we observe the kids riding in a reckless manner, officers do have the discretion to conduct enforcement.”


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4 Responses to Illegal Juvenile Activity at the Palisades Rec Center

  1. Cindy Simon says:

    Perhaps we should not be referring to this behavior as “nuisance behavior” or “weekend shenanigans” and call it what it is “criminal behavior”. Thank you to SLO Brian Espin & PPCC President Maryam Zar for your attention and tireless work on addressing safety issues in our community

  2. Nicole says:

    Does it make any sense once some of the juveniles are identified, that the community around the rec center create a civil lawsuit against the parents for the impact their children’s illegal activities have had on the residents on an almost nightly basis? It seems to me that’s the only way to really have a legitimate impact on curtailing their activities.

  3. Huntington Neighbor says:

    We installed our own security cameras when our reports of the frequent park explosions were routinely dismissed. We have provided much footage to our local patrol but they have refused to enforce existing laws and therefore provide consequences to kids for these criminal actions. The kids pull up their hoodies when throwing these explosives and run—they are not going to pose for the park’s new security cameras. What exactly will more cameras accomplish when existing footage prompts no arrests? How will LAPD (who do not have the manpower to even answer phone calls) review and monitor footage from 15 security cameras? Even if they manage to identify the culprits who are already known to them, what do they intend to do beyond a slap on the wrist? These kids have stated they are not scared of the police, and why should they be?
    Finally, hiring additional private security will not help when private security cannot arrest and have already said their hands are tied if the police will not act.
    Solution? The park entrance needs to be secured with gates to deter after hours drag racing in cars and on E-bikes, and signs should be prominently posted with park rules, park hours, city trespass and fireworks laws. Additionally, a few arrests by undercover cops on Friday night should get the word out these crimes are being taken seriously. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on solutions that haven’t worked to date is not the right solution.

  4. Steve says:

    So many head scratching issues at play here. 1) Parents-how with all of the publicity this has received are parents not looking into what their kids are doing and where they are doing it? I have teens and have discussed this issue many times with them. 2) Tax dollars- the citizens of PP pay a lot of different taxes. How is it we’re going to have to fundraise to find the money for security upgrades at a City owned park? 3) LAPD-if they have to witness e-bikes to take action then it will never happen because the LAPD is never in the Palisades. There is no reason to follow the law in the Palisades whether it’s putting money in a parking meter, making a u-turn on Sunset or lighting fireworks in the park because there is never a patrol car. How about we get one officer in a patrol car 24/7. They can hang out at the park in between calls and monitor that activity. Are we really not entitled to a single officer here? Very frustrating.

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