CITY HALL — Crime and public safety programs rank first in importance to residents, according to preliminary community needs assessment survey results, officials said Thursday.

Officials stressed that the results would likely change as more surveys are received because close to half of the 845 surveys received so far came from residents age 65 and older. Senior programming, employment and job training, and youth services followed public safety in ranked importance in the results so far, officials said.

“It’s a little skewed right now. The main source of input has been the senior population,” Jess Duran, interim director of the Department of Community Development and Housing, said at Thursday’s Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee meeting.

Still, Duran said he thought public safety would likely remain at the top of the list when the community needs assessment is set to be completed by the end of September.

The surveys are part of the Department of Community Development and Housing’s community needs assessment, which will help the advisory committee and department formulate a five-year strategic plan for use of the city’s funds.

“We are looking for priorities of the community,” said Moises Carrillo, senior community development supervisor.

Residents can also fill out the survey online at the city’s website, and another large batch of paper surveys were sent out to randomly selected households last week, officials said.

“The 3,000-piece mailer will be much more reflective of the broader community,” Duran said.

In addition to the paper and online survey, a number of community meetings have been scheduled.

Earlier this month, a youth focus group was held to assess youth needs directly. Focus groups for housing, community development, homeless service and economic development are scheduled for September. A community meeting to address needs in general will be held Sept. 16 at the Pacific Community Center.

The preliminary survey results leaving public safety at the top of the list come at a time of unpopular Police Department cuts that resulted in three officers receiving pink slips this summer. In July, officials said the officers would be terminated as of Sept. 30 unless vacancies were made available through attrition or other strategies.

A handful of residents have spoken out against the cuts in recent months, including activist Margaret Hammond and former City Council candidate Lenore Solis, who at last week’s council meeting called for more residents to protest the cuts.

“Come and speak about the importance of our public safety personnel,” Solis said.

Council members say the layoffs were the result of the police union’s unwillingness to budge on scheduled pay increases. The council had held out on making significant cuts to the Police Department in hopes that the union would agree to concede 1% or 2% from the scheduled 6% pay raise, but the concession never came, forcing a restructuring of community policing services and the elimination of seven positions.

“I think part of the angst should be directed at the issues related to the contract,” Councilman John Drayman said last week.

 MELANIE HICKEN covers City Hall. She may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at melanie.hicken@latimes.com.

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