Neighborhood Patrol Has a Secret Weapon--the Police : Law enforcement: Responding to calls for more community-based policing, the LAPD is now providing backup for the Crestview residents’ watch group.
Fed up with muggers attacking senior citizens as they puttered around their quiet neighborhood, the residents of Crestview in West Los Angeles about eight months ago decided to arm themselves with walkie-talkies and go out on patrol.
The Crestview Patrol Against Crime, by being a visible presence in the neighborhood, hoped to make a dent in serious attacks that police said were occurring on a daily basis.
And they have received some unexpected assistance. The Los Angeles Police Department, in an effort to begin implementing the Christopher Commission’s calls for more community-based policing, has joined forces with the little neighborhood watch group.
“This really exemplifies the concept of police and the public being the same thing, working together to solve crime,” Deputy Police Chief Glenn Levant said this week. “It’s never been done before, certainly not in the city of Los Angeles, and probably not in the United States.”
On Tuesday, two police officers on mountain bikes began patrolling a one-square-mile area while staying in constant two-way radio contact with several pairs of area residents out on patrol. The patrol area is bounded by Pico Boulevard on the north, Sawyer Street on the south, La Cienega on the east and Robertson Boulevard on the west.
Already, 22 neighbors have signed up for nighttime patrols, and police say they’ll have six officers and one sergeant out on the streets 18 hours a day. Authorities want to keep the hours flexible to keep the criminals guessing, Levant said.
The pilot program is known officially as the West Los Angeles Community Assisted Bike Detail. The Crestview group and police hope to expand the program to include daytime coordinated patrols, using local senior citizens as sentries.
If the test program is successful it could be expanded to other areas of the city, said Levant, who commands the West Los Angeles division that patrols Crestview and the three other Westside LAPD divisions.
There are many police-sanctioned neighborhood watch groups in the city, said Levant, but he knows of none that go as far as Crestview’s, which will keep police and residents in immediate two-way radio contact with each other, as well as with a base station located in a resident’s house.
The radio contact will allow police response to be silent, immediate and effective, said Levant and Sgt. Jerry Burns, who will coordinate the police end of the program.
Such coordinated teamwork “is so logical that we’re amazed it’s never been done before,” Levant said.
The special equipment for the bike detail was made available by the area’s city councilman, Zev Yaroslavsky, with funds from the 5th Council District’s Public Service Fund. A total of $2,100 went toward the purchase of two-way radios, bicycles and lights for the bicycles.
At a news conference held Tuesday to unveil the program, Yaroslavsky said he expects the program to be a cost-effective way of improving police services in the area, and he urged police officials to expand the program.
“This could be a quantum leap in neighborhood protection in the city of Los Angeles and the rest of the nation,” Yaroslavsky said. “These people will make a difference in improving the quality of life in their neighborhood.”
At the news conference, held outside a local community center, some of the locals proudly showed off the bright yellow windbreakers and baseball caps they will wear while on patrol. The jackets and hats bear the group’s insignia--a menacing likeness of a trench-coat-clad sentry watching over some unseen neighborhood.
As curious neighborhood youngsters looked on, the residents inspected the cobalt-blue bikes that the police will ride, and fiddled with the two-way radios.
“This is just super!” said Richard Haft, a real estate agent who has lived in the area for 20 or so years.
The group’s founder, Rosemarie Campbell, said she got the idea for her neighborhood patrol by reading about a senior patrol in a Northern California neighborhood.
Since then, the surgical nurse has spent 10 hours or so a week coordinating the patrols, going door-to-door to raise money and heading out onto the streets with a two-way radio.
Campbell said the neighborhood, quiet for years, recently had experienced a crime wave. Police said there has been about one attack per day in the area over the past several months.
“We’ve had muggings in daylight--people going to mail letters and getting held up,” said Campbell, who heads the Crestview Neighborhood Assn. Among the hardest hit have been senior citizens who walk the area alone, and families of Orthodox Jews who walk the streets at night on their way home from temple, according to Campbell and police.
“We were having fear in the area,” she said at the news conference. “We had five attacks on my block in just one week.”
Campbell and other residents expressed confidence that their patrols, especially with the help of police, will restore tranquility to the area and keep away criminals.
“It is nice here,” said Campbell. “We are trying to keep it that way.”