Merchants Recruited to Tackle Crime

Merchants in western Van Nuys are being recruited to work with police to tackle problems ranging from graffiti to grand theft auto as part of a new Corporate / Business Watch.

"Our goal is to get 100 people at the first meeting, to get a graffiti cleanup unit going, to try to prevent robberies from happening," said Shelly Joanis, co-owner of Lutz Copies & Printing. "We want people to become aware of these things and control it before it gets out of hand."

The watch will include merchants from Woodley Avenue to Balboa Boulevard and from Victory to Roscoe boulevards. A questionnaire is being distributed this week asking business owners when they would prefer to meet and if they would volunteer their facility for meetings.

Los Angeles Police Officer Joe Losorelli said he will meet with the merchants to tell them of crime "hot spots" in the area, as well as offer crime-fighting tips.

"They have a problem with grand theft auto around the airport and business parking lots, a huge problem with graffiti and gang members," Losorelli said.

Police will train owners how to prevent burglaries, educate employees to deal with crime, secure parking lots and put together emergency phone lists.

Joanis, who has been in business in the area for 12 years, said she was prompted to form the group after witnessing a local Neighborhood Watch group's impact on curbing crime.

"We want to do something that unifies the residents and the businesses," Joanis said. "We want to be more proactive."

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