Police Chief Batts Tells Council: Parts Of Central & North LB Seeing Spikes In Violent Crime; Report Indicates Fifth LBPD Division May Be Needed
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(Sept. 7, 2006) -- LB Police Chief Anthony Batts has told the City Council that crime in Central LB spiked during the summer, with shootings around the 10th St. corridor and impacts in the areas of the 1900 block of MLK as well as Atlantic Ave...and shootings have also flared-up, probably a larger amount, in North Long Beach along the Artesia corridor...along with gangs in the area of newly dedicated Ed "Pops" Davenport" park (55th Way/east of Paramount Blvd.)
The Sept. 5 Council colloquy with Chief Batts ensued when 6th district Councilwoman Laura Richardson (a proponent of building a Central LB police/public safety facility) asked the Chief to describe the crime situation in Central LB. When Chief Batts offered a diplomatic response, Councilwoman Richardson urged him to describe the situation in detail...and he did.
Chief Batts: To oversimply it...we've had violent crime occurring in the Central area probably for the last three to four years. We've tried innovative approaches of putting two-person [police] cars out there. It has dissipated dramatically.
This summer we've had a flare-up. We saw a series of shootings that have taken place, usually around our 10th St. corridor, which is making the most dramatic impact. We do have areas of 1900 block of MLK as well as Atlantic that have been impacted recently.
But at the same time, we've also had a flare-up of shootings, probably a more exacerbated amount, in the northern part of the city that runs along the Artesia corridor where we have a number of gangs that are being impacted, one across the street from the new park that we opened [55th Way/"Pops" Davenport Park].
So we've had a number of places. Also the westside tends to flare up. We've had a number of locations that flare up where we have to respond to those activities.
But traditionally it has the 6th district and down in the Central area. However over the last year it has become North Long Beach that has been the most problematic area.
A written report given to Councilmembers (and read aloud in part by Councilwoman Rae Gabelich) said in part, "[C]urrent and predicted growth of the city's population, and the changing demographics, will likely dictate the need for additional police officers and could lead to the need to create a Fifth patrol division." (LBPD has four divisions now: North, East, South & West).
8th district Councilwoman Rae Gabelich asked Chief Batts, "Would you support looking at some kind of mandate that would say 'per thousand' this would be what my recommendation would be to have for police services per thousand?" Chief Batts sidestepped the question (saying officers per thousand levels vary in different parts of the country; there's no empirical study saying how many officers are needed; LBPD uses computer software to calculate its needs; staffing levels he'd suggested in prior Council meetings [37-309 more officers] were a range of options for Council consideration), Councilwoman Gabelich said:
"My primary concern when I hear identifying a Fifth [division], my concern is that I'd still like to see our officers have two-man cars, especially to go into the more troubled areas. So to think about creating another skeleton crew for another [division], I don't know that would be something I would agree with..."
However 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga was more supportive of adding a fifth PD division, saying City Hall has five Planning divisions for the city...and a Fifth LBPD Division might benefit the 7th Council district, which now relies on officers split between the South and North divisions.
City Manager Jerry Miller asked, and the Mayor and Council agreed, to delay a public discussion of police personnel update/discussion of retention-attraction efforts for a week:
City Manager Miller: We did have a closed session to discuss this and to be fair this was the City Council's first opportunity to hear some of the details related to that particular issue. And I think that there were many good questions that need to be addressed, and I hope to address in the coming weeks. I think it's also fair to say that the City Council is very concerned and sensitive regarding the need to retain our most senior police officers and to retain all of our police officers. And basically, I think if we can bring back to the Council answers to questions raised today...In fact, I'd like, if we could Mr. Mayor, to simply postpone discussion of police/personnel issues to next week [Sept. 12] as part of the budget hearing...and I also...think it would be appropriate for us to have a closed session in two weeks to carry on with our discussion that we began today...
As previously reported by LBReport.com, on the morning of the Sept. 5 Council meeting, a man was killed in a drive-by shooting not far the North Long Beach Branch library (55th/Orange) where in mid-August Mayor Bob Foster and City Manager Jerry Miller unveiled their proposed FY 07 budget...which didn't include adding neighborhood police officers. Less than 24 hours before the Council meeting, a man was stabbed to death west of downtown, a short walk from City Hall. LBPD says it believes the two most recent killings were separate...but both gang related.
And LBReport.com has separately learned that just days before the recent dedication of LB's "Pops" Davenport park, graffiti vandals defaced the new facility (built with millions of Redevelopment Agency blight-fighting dollars), sending city officials scrambling to remove the graffiti in advance of the park's scheduled opening a few days later with city VIPs.
In 2005, the LB Police Officers Ass'n (which endorsed Mayoral candidate Bob Foster) accepted a new contract containing sizable pay raises after LB officers went without raises for several years. However, a number of senior LBPD officers have since exited LBPD for competing police agencies and LBPD is currently below its budgeted strength. City management and Mayor Foster have identified roughly $2 million that could be tapped for additional pay raises and benefits if the Council approves.
The Council has until September 30 by which to adopt its own FY 07 budget or city management's proposed budget (which doesn't include additional neighborhood officers for taxpayers) will take effect. To date, no Councilmember has publicly proposed budgeting any definite number of additional officers or offered ways to fund them.
During the recently concluded election cycle, candidate Bob Foster said he'd find ways to provide at least 100 more officers, not immediately but within the next four years.
Prior to the 2006 elections, the Council approved pay raises negotiated with LB Firefighters union and a non-public safety employees' union. More recently, Councilmembers approved pay increases for a union representing city management.
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