L.A. a safe city, Bradley assures Japanese

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

TOKYO -- Mayor Tom Bradley, on a tourism-promoting visit here on Tuesday, reiterated his call for the resignation of Police Chief Daryl F. Gates. But his main message to the Japanese was that Los Angeles is a "safe city."

At a news conference, Bradley complained that many Japanese view Los Angeles as "a dangerous city" plagued by drive-by shootings and gang wars that make residents "feel insecure." The mayor called such an impression a "myth."

Drive-by shootings and gang activity, he said, occur "in a limited area of the city," involve "primarily black or Hispanic gangs," and, to date, have threatened no tourists.

Bradley's pitch for Los Angeles as "a friendly city, a safe city, a place where you will enjoy yourself" and presentations by three other leaders of a city-county mission that visited Taipei in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Seoul consumed 50 minutes.

After answering one question from a Japanese reporter about the Rodney G. King beating, Bradley left. His comments were largely restricted to a recapitulation of the March 3 incident and its aftermath. But at one point, he declared that "our city will not tolerate that kind of brutal and unlawful conduct by police officers" and recited his call for Gates' resignation, saying, "Our two daily newspapers, a number of elected officials--including myself--and thousands of others called upon the chief of police to resign."

An executive of a Japanese public relations firm, which was handling arrangements for the mission, told reporters that Bradley had to leave for another appointment.

Earlier, the mayor said in opening remarks that "if I do nothing more than destroy a myth in my presentation, I will have accomplished my purpose." The "myth," he said, was a Japanese image of Los Angeles as a crime-ridden city.

He related how one young Japanese woman told him she had gained the impression 10 years ago that Los Angeles was "a dangerous city" from reading how Japanese businessman Kazuyoshi Miura allegedly chose Los Angeles as a site to kill his wife because he believed that its large numbers of homicides prevent Los Angeles police from fully investigating such crimes.

Miura was convicted in Tokyo of hiring a Japanese woman to attempt to kill his wife, Kazumi, during an August, 1981, Los Angeles visit. He is now on trial, accused of shooting Kazumi during another trip to the city in November, 1981. Miura, Bradley recalled, told Los Angeles police that "some criminal in the city had committed the crime." Mrs. Miura never regained consciousness after the shooting and died in Japan in November, 1982. Miura later collected about 150 million yen ($1.1 million at the current exchange rate) on his wife's death.

Bradley also said he was questioned earlier by Japanese reporters about drive-by shootings and gang wars.

"I can tell you with authority," he said, "that when there is a drive-by shooting--and they do occur from time to time--and when there are conflicts between gangs--and they do occur--in no case will you have found that those involved or threatened tourists."

"These incidents have happened in a limited area of the city, primarily between black or Hispanic gangs. They do not cover the entire city," he said.

In one highly publicized incident, however, a graphic artist from Long Beach named Karen Toshima was shot to death in 1988 as she strolled through upscale Westwood Village near the UCLA campus. Toshima's death by gang-related gunfire shocked Los Angeles into the realization that street violence was not limited to minority neighborhoods in South and East Los Angeles.

Bradley said he was not suggesting that "there will never be an incident or crime involving a tourist. . . . I'm simply saying that Los Angeles is a safe city and tourists may feel secure when they come."

Citing the 870,000 Japanese who visited Los Angeles last year as evidence that the city is safe, he told the Japanese: "I invite you. Please come to Los Angeles--a friendly city, a safe city, a place where you can enjoy yourself."

Larry E. Kirk, chairman of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, disclosed that the bureau would probably establish "some kind of permanent representation" in Tokyo "within the year" to promote Japanese tourism to Los Angeles.

He said the mission had also visited Taipei, Hong Kong, and Seoul because each of those cities "offer big markets for tourism." Mission members, including representatives of the Los Angeles Port and the Los Angeles Airport, also sought to expand business and renew contacts with customers, he added.

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