ECHO PARK : Drop-In Police Site Step Closer to Reality

Backers of a proposal to open a drop-in center for Los Angeles police officers in Echo Park are finally close to signing a lease for the site after years of planning.

The drop-in center, which would be in an unused portion of a Bank of America branch at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue, will give police officers a place to meet and write reports without having to return to the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast and Rampart divisions, which share jurisdiction of the neighborhood.

Bank of America has agreed to donate the site, but details of the lease agreement are still being worked out, said Linda Ortiz, an aide in Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg's office. The lease is expected to be signed within a few weeks, Ortiz said.

Police and residents say the center would not only be a convenience for officers, but would also increase police presence in Echo Park and give residents a chance to stop and talk to officers.

"It's a closer bond for the police by being out at these stop-in centers," said Officer Joe Writer, a patrol supervisor for Echo Park and Silver Lake.

Writer said a 5-month-old drop-in center in neighboring Silver Lake has been a success in part because residents often come by to give information on crime. On two occasions, Writer said, he was able to arrest graffiti taggers in action when residents gave him tips while he was at the center.

William Nettles, an Echo Park resident and member of a committee organized to find a site for the center, said officers who stop by the Echo Park center would also be able to respond faster to emergency calls in the neighborhood.

In the past year, the drop-in centers, also known as stop-in centers or outposts, have become popular with both residents and police officers in the department's 18 divisions, said Sgt. Larry Domagalski, the officer in charge of the department's special projects unit.

Organizers of the Echo Park drop-in center said they hope to upgrade its services to that of a community service center, which is staffed by officers with set hours. The department now has about 50 such centers, whose larger space typically is donated by businesses. The department does not tally the number of the more informal drop-in centers.

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