The South Bay is one of the safest areas in Los Angeles County, police officials told residents who attended the first South Bay crime summit.
Statistically, crime levels in the area are the same as they were five years ago, Torrance Police Chief Joe De Ladurantey told about 60 people at the Torrance Cultural Art Center on April 27.
A panel of eight police officials and seven city officials addressed the audience and answered questions. Panel members urged the residents to look beyond media reports in assessing the crime in their communities.
"It's unfortunate good news doesn't sell newspapers or make more people watch TV," said Capt. Herb Pettus of the Sheriff's Department. "(People) conclude that our communities are deteriorating based on those reports, and that's not true."
Homicides in Lomita remain steady at one or two a year, Pettus said.
"The most prevalent crimes we deal with are grand theft and burglary," he said. "Our next biggest problem at Lomita is traffic congestion."
De Ladurantey said public safety is the most important issue in South Bay cities and that police are trying to quell the community's fear.
Reducing crime, especially among youths, is a joint responsibility for police and the community, panel members said.
De Ladurantey said that by 2004, the United States will have 30 million residents from ages 13 to 19, representing the highest percentage of teen-agers in history.
"It lies with each and every one of you to come up with solutions," he said. He urged parents to keep their children busy to keep them out of trouble.
"Make them tired," he said. "Fill the clock."
A Youth Services Division has been added to the Torrance Police Department in an attempt to work with youngsters and dissuade them from crime, he said. One of their activities is midnight basketball.