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NORTH HOLLYWOOD : Police Open Station at Recreation Center

His jacket covering the patches of sweat spreading on his dress shirt, Mayor Richard Riordan joined other city officials Thursday in opening a new community policing center at Valley Plaza Recreation Center, the first such center in a San Fernando Valley park.

“We should all be proud of this place,” said Riordan, who showed up early for the dedication ceremony and opted to get into a two-on-two pickup basketball game before the event. The mayor’s side lost 10-8.

“There was something wrong with the basketball hoop,” Riordan joked afterward.

But neighbors, police and other officials were more excited by the new police station than Riordan’s adventure on the courts. The two bicycle-patrolling police officers and the senior lead officer working out of the park eight hours a week will help deter crime, give the community easy access to police and help police respond better to potential trouble spots, they said.

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The park facility is the second community police station opened by the Los Angeles Police Department’s North Hollywood Division this year. The first is at the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce offices.

Capt. Richard Wahler, commander of the North Hollywood Division, said plans are to have other stations set up elsewhere in North Hollywood and in Studio City and Valley Village.

“We feel it creates a safe and welcoming atmosphere in the park,” Councilman Joel Wachs said.

Barbara Whitworth, a police community representative who lives near the park, said the center will give local Neighborhood Watch groups a central meeting place, and serve as a way for residents to work out problems with police long before authorities have to take official action.

“It’s good for pulling people together,” she said. “When we’re trying to get people involved it’s easier if we can have a central location.”

David Mills, another police community representative, said that having the center at the park will help allay fears some residents have about the police. “Some people are too scared to come down to the police station,” he said.

Police and city officials said they hope police working in the park will cause the youths who play there to see officers in a more positive light.

Wahler said the center will not necessarily improve police response times to crimes in the neighborhood, but the closer contact with the community will help officers plan patrols of potential trouble spots better.

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“Sometimes even when there isn’t a problem, our presence helps the community feel more comfortable,” Wahler said. To reach the new station, call (818) 756-7674.


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