In a move that it hopes will boost its community-based policing efforts among non-English speakers, the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Valley Division plans to open a substation in a largely Latino area next week.
The station at the Canoga Park Community Center, 7248 Owensmouth Ave., will be the first located by the West Valley division in a neighborhood with a high percentage of Latino residents.
It will be staffed by bilingual volunteers during most business hours, and sometimes by sworn officers, starting Sept. 9, said Capt. Val Paniccia, who coordinates the West Valley’s patrol assignments.
Nearly half of the residents near the substation are Latino, and many speak little English or are illegal immigrants, who “often feel hesitant to walk into the main police station to discuss some concern they might have,” Paniccia said.
“But we need to hear from them, and let everyone in this area know that they can have contact with their police without having to come all the way to the station,” Paniccia said.
Volunteers at the station will be available to take reports in Spanish or English and give information on community meetings and crime prevention, he said.
The opening of the substation, which is located next to the Canoga Park Chamber of Commerce, was originally scheduled for May, but was postponed because officers had filed an incomplete application for the new station’s approval.
The West Valley Division, which also has substations in the Fallbrook and Promenade malls, was able to gain approval for the Canoga Park site, despite an agreement among department brass not to open any others until there are funds to hire more officers.
Because it will be inside a city-owned building, the Canoga Park station will not require extra funds from the Police Department or approval from the City Council, Paniccia said. But the division will not request any more substations until the department’s ranks grow, he said, because “we don’t want to diffuse our people any more.”