Police to Clamp Down on Westwood Teen Crowds
An all-out effort to thin out the late-night weekend crowds of sometimes troublesome teen-agers in Westwood Village will get under way tonight as a special 20-man team of foot patrol officers begin strict enforcement of the 10 p.m. curfew for youngsters under the age of 18, Los Angeles police said Thursday.
Some veteran businessmen remember the community as an idyllically quiet and easy-going place to shop and go to movies, both day and night. Now they complain about “the carnival-like atmosphere” the youngsters have brought to the village--jamming the sidewalks and streets with pedestrian and auto traffic, driving away adult clientele, committing vandalism and acting hostilely. They say the worst times are between about 10:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
“You open your door,” said Shel Starkman, owner of the Old World Restaurant, “and it’s like finding yourself in the middle of a high school at recess time.”
At the Bon Appetit on nearby Broxton Avenue, owner Don Gimbel was emphatic in blaming the problem on youngsters coming in from “outside” neighborhoods. “It’s just gotten out of hand in the last month or so,” he said.
Gimbel and his manager-son, David Gimbel, said their weekend business has “dropped 20%-- adults aren’t coming anymore because they don’t want to face those crowds of kids . . . thousands and thousands.”
Capt. John Wilbanks, commander of the Police Department ‘s West Los Angeles Division, said there has been “a pretty significant increase in street assaults and robberies” in the village and admitted that dense pedestrian and auto traffic often creates gridlock situations on principal thoroughfares.
Capt. Stan Kensic, commander of field services in the division, said a similar curfew sweep nine months ago, in which about 300 curfew violators were picked up, was considered quite successful in alleviating the problems for a time.
That sweep was not announced in advance. Tonight’s sweep is being given widespread publicity, he said, because the point is not to pick up large numbers of teen-agers but to warn youngsters that they can and will be taken into custody if they are found loitering in the area after 10 p.m.
Kensic said the sweep is as much for the protection of the youngsters as anything else, because they frequently are the victims of assaults or robberies.
“It boils down to an inconvenience process,” he said. “Unless they (the youngsters detained) have a delinquent background, or are habitual runaways, we will simply take them to the station and process them, and ask the parents to come and get them. . . . If the parents happen to be out (cannot be contacted) this can take several hours. We will keep them in our roll call room.”
Wilbanks said his division is cooperating with City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky and the Westwood Village Assn. in the curfew enforcement effort.
Yaroslavsky said the sweep planned for tonight is nothing new.
“At my urging, we did (the first) sweeps like this repeatedly about 18 months ago.” The purpose, he said, is not to harass anyone with legitimate business in the area but to clear the streets of unsupervised minors.