CHINATOWN : Police Substation Breaking Barriers

The Chinatown police substation has been open only a year, but it has already become a model for other communities seeking to establish neighborhood stations.

Residents from the Koreatown and Hollenbeck areas have been among the visitors to the Chinatown station, and the officers and staff have been happy to show off the 3,600-square-foot, two-story building at 823 N. Hill St.

“New immigrants come over and aren’t used to an honest police force,” said Gilman Jung, executive director of the Chinatown Public Safety Assn., which spearheaded the effort to build the substation. “We’ve solved the language problem for them. But we’re also fighting the Asian mentality here--'I just lost $100 but it’s not worth the time to report it.’ ”

Getting crime reports from victims who don’t speak English can be difficult because of recent immigrants’ distrust for the police, language barriers and other cultural obstacles. The Chinatown substation has compiled an impressive record in its first year--it logs about 120 crime-report calls a month, compared to 50 before the station opened, police said.


The Chinatown substation, officially the Chinatown Community Police Service Center, opened a year ago. The $1-million station, which has an upstairs meeting room accessible by a motorized wheelchair lift, is open seven days a week from 9 a.m to 6 p.m.

The substation’s roots go back to 1982, when Phoenix Bakery owner Lun Chan donated office space above his shop so officers who patrolled Chinatown could stop in to write reports and talk to crime victims. Community members then formed the safety association to work with the Los Angeles Police Department and provide bilingual crime prevention and reporting information.

Despite some community debate about the need for the building, the association raised more than $300,000 in community and corporate donations. The Community Redevelopment Agency and other city agencies provided about $800,000 in grants and loans. The substation opened Feb. 2, 1992.

The station’s five regular officers, two of whom are bilingual, and the substation’s full-time staff of four keep busy educating the community about crime prevention and spotting crime. Office manager Bonnie Louie, assistant Stacy Tsang and translators C.K. Chung and Samantha Wong organize bilingual community seminars, provide bilingual brochures and produce a newsletter that reports on crime trends.

Louie said she is trying to get more multimedia materials for children. Jung wants to hire more staff so the station can stay open at night.

The Chinatown station’s success has motivated members of the Koreatown community who want to build a similar station for their officers, who now use a small office for taking reports, said Yohngsohk Choe, a member of the Wilshire Community Police Council.

But Choe said because Koreatown residents are spread over a larger area and primarily concerned with rebuilding riot-torn businesses, getting a substation built there will take much longer.