Plaza Tries to Stem Flow of Cruisers : Crime: Manager of the La Rinda shopping center in Sylmar agrees to upgrade security and work with police.


In an attempt to stem the flow into Sylmar of teen-age cruisers who bring with them drugs, guns, alcohol and crime, the manager of the La Rinda Plaza shopping center agreed Friday to upgrade security and work with police.

“Without the community and police support, it will happen all over again,” warned Stephen S. Chan, managing director for Sun West Property Management, which manages the center.

At a hearing Friday before a city zoning administrator, police, residents, business people and Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon said that each Friday, Saturday and Sunday night the plaza attracts numerous teen-age cruisers to the neighborhood.


They blamed the plaza, on Laurel Canyon Boulevard in San Fernando, for the cruising, saying Chan turns a deaf ear to the problem.

“By their lack of action, they are contributing to the problem,” Alarcon said.

Chan countered that he has been limited in what he could do without enough police backup. Even the armed security guards who were hired in January cannot confront the hundreds of cruisers alone, he said. The guards are afraid to work past 11 p.m. after the center’s stores have closed, he added.

Cruising has been a problem in this residential neighborhood for about four or five years, said Lenor Ramirez, who lives in nearby Mission Hills. But it has gotten worse in the past two years, she said.

With cars blocking streets and driveways and teen-agers fighting and littering, residents have felt like prisoners in their own homes, Ramirez and her neighbors said. Several said they have moved their sleeping quarters to the rear of their homes to avoid stray bullets.

“I can’t have friends visit me on Sunday nights, because I’m afraid for their safety,” said Ramirez’s sister, Hilda.

Hilda Ramirez said that a few months ago, cruisers frightened her by banging beer bottles on her car as she was trying to pull into her driveway.


“This is the complaint I have gotten the most from the community,” said LAPD Foothill Division police Capt. Bob Gale.

He said that for the past three weeks, using overtime funds, he has brought extra officers into the neighborhood. Last weekend, he said, officers issued hundreds of tickets and impounded about 80 vehicles.

The plaza parking lot holds the key to solving the cruising problem, Gale said. The lot draws cruisers, from as far away as Venice, Simi Valley, Whittier and even Bakersfield, because hundreds of cars can meet on the lot and scatter through any number of exits when the police show up.

On Friday, Chan agreed to close all but two of the lot exits with chain or removable posts after business hours. That will mean police will easily be able to stop and check all the cars in the lot and cruisers will know they can be trapped there.

“It doesn’t take long for the word to get out that it’s not conducive to cruising and they will go elsewhere,” Gale said.


“This problem has overwhelmed us for some time,” said Chan, whose company manages the shopping center for the La Rinda Center Partnership, a group of 16 investors who jointly own the property.


Chan also offered to provide space, at no charge, for a police substation at the plaza.

A formal decision by Associate Zoning Administrator William E. Lillenberg, who conducted the hearing, will not come for two or three weeks. Lillenberg can impose several conditions on the center’s operating permit.

San Fernando officials, including Mayor Ray Ojeda, pledged to work with Los Angeles to solve the problem.