LAPD bringing anti-gang skills to Dodger Stadium
The Los Angeles Police Department announced plans to bring aggressive crime-fighting tactics that it employs on city streets into Dodger Stadium as part of a security crackdown a week after a visiting fan was attacked in the ballpark’s parking lot.
Overriding a Dodger policy against armed police inside the stadium, Police Chief Charlie Beck said Friday that uniformed officers will be posted throughout the ballpark and will be more aggressive about arresting or expelling people who cause trouble. Beck also said Dodgers owner Frank McCourt had agreed to pay for an increase in the number of LAPD officers patrolling in the stadium and the parking lots during and after games.
McCourt consented as well to create a computer mapping and crime tracking system for the stadium that is similar to the one the LAPD has used for years to scrutinize crime patterns and hotspots throughout Los Angeles. The department’s computer analysis of crime data is considered by many criminologists to be a factor in the city’s decline in crime over the last decade.
Improvements in surveillance and parking lot lighting are planned as well. And the Dodger organization has agreed to revoke the passes of season-ticket holders if they or their guests misbehaved, Beck said.
“If you come to intimidate, to antagonize … we’re going to do one of two things,” Beck said. “You’re going to be thrown out of the stadium or you’re going to get to go to jail.”
The changes, which will take effect in time for the Dodgers next home game on Thursday, mark a turnabout for the team. McCourt said last weekend that he was satisfied with the team’s security measures, saying “you could have 2,000 policemen there, and it’s just not going to change that random act of violence.”
But at a news conference Friday with Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, McCourt said he fully supported a greater police presence and acknowledged hearing concerns from fans who felt unsafe at the stadium.
“I hear you loudly and I hear you clearly,” he said. “We are going to redouble our efforts to make sure we fulfill our promise to the fans and all the citizens of the Greater Los Angeles area. We are going to provide a safe, family-friendly, fan-friendly environment at Dodger stadium. I promise you that.”
McCourt deflected a question from a reporter regarding complaints from some fans that the atmosphere at the park has become more hostile in recent years. He also expressed skepticism that curbing alcohol sales would make a significant difference.
“I don’t think it’s the sale of beer that’s a problem, per se. I think it’s the abuse of that privilege,” he said.
But Beck, in an interview, said he believed beer and alcohol consumption did, in fact, contribute to the problems at the stadium and said police officials were pushing the Dodgers to raise prices and stop sales at an earlier point in the games.
Dodger officials have told the LAPD that they are reconsidering their plan to sell half-price alcohol at six games this season. They also promised to look at prices and serving sizes for alcohol, as well as when to stop serving alcohol, according to Dodger spokesman Josh Rawitch.
Friday’s announcement capped a week of increasing scrutiny for the ballpark. Last Thursday, as fans left the stadium after the Dodgers’ opening day game against the rival San Francisco Giants, two men attacked 42-year-old Bryan Stow from behind. Stow remains in a medically induced coma and his doctors say he may have suffered brain damage. Detectives say they have received scores of tips and witnesses’ accounts involving the two assailants. Various rewards have been offered for information leading to their arrest, totaling $150,000.
Villaraigosa urged the attackers to turn themselves in. “What you did was wrong. It was despicable and senseless, unprovoked. But, make it a little better, by coming forward, by doing what will be looked at in hindsight as doing the civil, right thing when you’ve done wrong,” he said.
Beck attributed much of the problems at Dodger Stadium to “a fringe fan base” that is made up of gang members or troublemakers who dress and act the part. Dealing with them effectively, he said, will require bringing the LAPD’s tough stance on street crime into the park. “There is an element of society that has adopted the Dodgers and who go to their games for all the wrong reasons,” he said. “Can I fix that? Sure. I fix that the same way we’re fixing the gang problem in Los Angeles.”
The department deploys anti-gang units throughout troubled spots of the city. Those officers work exclusively on combating gang crime and develop intimate knowledge of the gang members who are active in their areas. Beck said he was considering using anti-gang officers at games, but expressed confidence that regular patrol officers would be effective in deterring problems.
The total number of LAPD officers to be deployed at games was still being determined. Beck declined to detail the types of behavior that would get a fan expelled from a game.
Members of a team of security experts hired by McCourt this week to make recommendations for additional safety improvements were expected to arrive at the park Friday. The team is headed by former LAPD Chief William J. Bratton, who now runs Kroll, an international security consulting firm.
Rawitch said the team would wait until Bratton completes his review before deciding whether to make public some or all of his findings.
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