L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Jeff Gorell were guests at a “Crime and Public Safety” Town Hall held virtually on Monday night, hosted by Councilman Mike Bonin.
Although Moore tried to be optimistic about the direction of the City, he cited facts that were concerning in the nearly two-hour meeting.
About an hour and fifty minutes into the presentation, which can be found on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b11tWdI4ibc&t=7s), a Venice resident asked, “Will there be funding issues for beach patrols?”
Moore replied, “Yes. Those were added details that benefitted from bolstering the police force staff levels.. . .We have to curtail these added deployments.”
He explained that the Will Rogers beach patrol came from existing staffing and that the Venice detail came about when the police force was bolstered in 1994-95.
“In the absence of these staffing levels, we have to curtail the added deployments,” Moore said, noting that the LAPD will have to focus on geographical equity across the City. “I’m not aware of a single neighborhood that feels they have sufficient resources.
“Lastly, I do think it’s critical we cannot expect service levels to remain the same if we do not find ways for other resources to be brought in to take care of the number of these current responsibilities,” Moore said.
Ever since the City Council voted to cut the LAPD budget by $150 million in June, the promise of other City Departments to step in and help with the homeless, welfare checks and traffic accidents has not yet materialized. The Council promised to “reimagine public safety,” which meant those calls would no longer go to the police.
“Radio calls have increased by 63 percent and I’m looking for the number where I can send those calls,” said Moore, who continues to lose staff. “We were at 10,000 officers, we’re down to 9,860 and by March and April, we’ll be at 9,750.” That would be the smallest police force since 2008.
A November 7 LA. Times story (“LAPD to Dramatically Downsize Special Units, Focus on Patrol as Budget Cut Shrinks Force”), noted that the Metropolitan Division will be reduced as well as the robbery and homicide and gang and narcotics divisions.
“The front desks will not be staffed,” said Moore, adding that all traffic collisions will now be online. He said his daughter had just been in a collision and he appreciated that there was an officer to walk her through it, but that will no longer be the case.
“We’ll have to deal with less resources,” Moore said. “We will look for ways to partner with the community and other nonprofits. As a department we were asked to reduce. As people retire, we will not replace them. About 150 civilians who have been working in the departments will not be replaced.”
“We will move people and resources from murder/gang because we have to stay invested with our Senior Lead Officers,” Moore said.
He also explained that LAPD has seen an increase in street violence during the Covid-19 pandemic and aggravated assaults are up.
“Lower level crimes have been decriminalized,” Moore said. “Usually we do not allow lower level crimes to go unabated. We’ve also seen an increase in gangs selling drugs to the homeless.”
Moore said encampments have made it difficult to enforce narcotic laws. Before Covid, tents on the sidewalk (LAMC Section 561 addresses tents and bulky items on sidewalks) were taken down during the day. Now those laws are also not in effect, which makes selling drugs easier.
A Venice resident asked, “What are you doing to deal with crime here? People know they can get away with it.”
Moore responded that the inability to bring tents down has contributed to assaults and drugs. He said that cleaning up Penmar has made it easier to police that area.
There was a large homeless encampment on Rose Avenue next to Penmar Golf Club. After some tents caught fire in October, officials were brought in to clean the area up. When CTN drove by the area on Saturday, nobody could be seen living along the golf course (which is fenced off), but some of the RV’s had moved to the other side of the street.
Bonin said that he and L.A. County Supervisors Mark Ridley Thomas and Sheila Kuehl were able to find housing for 80+ Penmar homeless.
“We see violent crime going up with the homeless,” Moore said, noting that there have been 56 more homicides this year among the homeless. “Those public settings are not safe.”
A resident said, “Drug users prey on the homeless. When are they going to be arrested?”
Moore pointed out that each area has a narcotics detail, but “what is aiding them [drug sellers] is being able to do it under a shelter [tent].”
Additionally, several residents noted that many of the homeless are committing crimes, but don’t seem to be charged.
Bike theft is particularly high, and Moore recommended everyone who has a bike to register it with bikeindex.org, so if stolen bikes are found, the police can identify their owners.
“There is a reluctance to take people into custody during Covid,” said Moore, “and there is also zero bail for some offenses, such as car theft, which means the people are instantly back on the street.”
Gorell was asked when Mayor Eric Garcetti was going to do something about the crimes committed by the homeless. “The Mayor works every day to help the homeless,” Gorell said. “There’s a lot happening at the City level, working with the county. It’s a challenge and there are legal issues.”
Gorell was also asked where the $150 million cut from the LAPD budget will be directed. “Where that money goes will be decided by the City Council,” he said. “The Mayor does not have a say.”
Bonin said the City now has a $600 million budget deficient and that by April there will be a budget crisis. “The money [$150 million] has yet to be spent. Every dollar will be fought over like cats and dogs.”
Noting that 95 percent of the City’s budget is payroll (“We look not to lay people off”), Bonin said he had taken a 10 percent pay cut.
Also in attendance at the Town Hall were police chiefs from West L.A. (Captain Jonathon Tom) and the Pacific Division (Venice, Westchester, Palms, Playa Vista Oakwood, Mar Vista and Playa del Rey) plus the Neighborhood prosecutors for those areas, Veronica de la Cruz and Claudia Martin.