(August 10, 2005) -- LBReport.com has learned of terrifying events that took place a few weeks ago in WLB's Silverado Park. On July 22, multiple shots were fired at a crowd, causing people to run for their lives, wounding two and leaving others in fear of gang retaliation if they helped police.
7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga referred to the park violence on Aug. 9 when she and 8th district Councilwoman Rae Gabelich jointly agendized an item seeking a report from management on the feasibility of using surveillance devices in public places and parks.
In discussing the agenda item, Councilwoman Reyes Uranga gave the most detailed public description yet of what took place in the sizable park...which runs eastward from Santa Fe Ave. to Delta Ave. between 31st and 32d Streets. She said park employees, some quite young, were "out there shepherding the kids through, getting them to safety, mopping up blood, providing first aid, dodging bullets, this is not in their job description. And then to be asked by the police department to assist in ID'ing of the suspects, it just brought fear to a lot of them..."
She added that for victims of the shootings "to lose an eye, to get shot, your jaw wired shut...it's terrible. We have to do something."
We followed up and got additional information from LBPD. Public Information Officer Jackie Bezart said a large crowd was in the park at about 6:30 p.m. on July 22. It had been a hot day, drawing people outside. Three male Hispanic suspects allegedly approached; shots were fired; two male Samoans were struck (ages 16 and 22, both LB residents); people ran; park employees guided people into the park gym for protection.
Councilwoman Reyes Uranga said "If nowhere else, I would like 'em [the cameras] at Silverado Park." Councilwoman Gabelich added, "We'll add Houghton Park to that, the skate park, and we'll add Burton Chase to that, brand new park, $500,000, destroyed...Because we've got the little terrorists out there that are intimidating everybody..."
Councilwoman Reyes Uranga said she'd discussed doing a feasibility study with the City Prosecutor and he indicated cameras could be a valuable resource. "That's what we want to explore. Can it be used for convictions? If not, we don't want it there just snoopin', we want to have hard convictions out of this." Councilwoman Reyes Uranga said.
Councilman O'Donnell dissented. Displaying a copy of George Orwell's 1984, he said, "The message this sends today is pretty simple. Today it's cameras in your park. Tomorrow it's cameras in your front yard, and next week it's cameras in your house," said Councilman O'Donnell...adding "Who knows in what room?...I believe this goes against the grain of America. It's that simple."
Councilman Dan Baker, who noted that he'd consistently voted against "red light cams" in the past, said that for "exactly the same reason...I can't possibly think why I would support this [surveillance cams]."
Councilwoman Gabelich invited comments from Chief of Police Anthony Batts, who stressed that cameras were no substitute for adding police.
I've got to start with a caveat...that we need more police officers. We need to grow the police department. And I started with a sense of urgency three years ago in front of this Council saying we need to grow, and I will not back off that, and that has to be our primary focus.
Cameras I am very much in support of. I've seen cameras firsthand in London. I've gone to Israel, I've seen their camera system. We've had officers go to China to see their camera system. LAPD is using them in MacArthur Park where they dropped crime 30-40% out of their park...
However you need police officers to respond to those crimes when they occur. You need police officers to monitor those cameras...I think they do save money, however I'd like to reemphasize: we need police officers first.
At about the same time the Council began its August 9 meeting, another shooting took place in the same WLB area. LBPD Public Information Officer Jackie Bezart said one man was approached by another near 31st and Santa Fe, shots rang out...and LB's latest shooting victim was transported to a hospital (stable condition as we post).
LBPD set up a major perimeter; SWAT was summoned; a canine unit was deployed...and LBPD took a suspect in custody by 9:30 p.m.