Hear It: 100-150 ELB Residents (From El Dorado Park South to Plaza Area) Meet On Neighborhood Street To Demand City Action On Neighborhood Crimes; Councilwoman Mungo Says She'll Propose "Homeless Abatement" At Mungo tells residents: "The reason we have the number of officers we have is not because we have a budget issue." Blames decline in police job applicants, alleges only half of recent LB Police Academy recruits graduated.
Hear It: 100-150 ELB Residents (From El Dorado Park South to Plaza Area) Meet On Neighborhood Street To Demand City Action On Neighborhood Crimes; Councilwoman Mungo Says She'll Propose "Homeless Abatement" At
Mungo tells residents: "The reason we have the number of officers we have is not because we have a budget issue." Blames decline in police job applicants, alleges only half of recent LB Police Academy recruits graduated.
|(Sept. 9, 2016, 9:50 p.m.) -- Between 100-150 residents from East Long Beach neighborhoods stretching from El Dorado Park South to the Spring St./Palo Verde Plaza area, converged at the eastern end of Atherton St. at dusk on Weds. Sept. 7 for a grassroots-organized -- not City Hall-staged -- meeting to discuss what to do about increasing neighborhood crime. .
[Scroll down for further.]
The meeting was suggested and conducted by neighborhood resident John Murrin. Participants said the event grew organically, propelled by messages on social networks with assistance from some individuals in the leadership of the El Dorado Park South Neighborhood Association. (One person provided a PA system; another offered electricity from his nearby home.)
LBPD officials, City Hall homeless services staffers and Councilwoman Stacy Mungo were allowed to speak but not to control the event.
Neighborhood signs previewing the meeting indicated it was to discuss neighborhood safety.
However some city officials tried to frame the discussion in terms of homeless issues, and they encountered push-back from residents who stated that while they had compassion for those less fortunate, their concerns as neighborhood residents are crime and safety.
Councilwoman Mungo told the crowd that she believed the best persons to address the evening's issues were an LBPD police officer who deals with homeless matters and a city social service worker. The LBPD officer began by telling residents that "being homeless is not crime; these are people"...and within seconds, a man in the audience retorted that certain behaviors are crimes and opined that there's "a dog and pony show here."
Shortly thereafter, neighborhood resident Jorge Rodriguez was given the opportunity to speak and drew applause when he said: "I think our issue has been more about safety. I definitely have compassion at heart for the homeless, for the less fortunate...[but] our concern is that crime is being committed in our neighborhoods. [Loud applause, cheers]...We're not here to discuss the homeless factor. [applause] We're here to discuss crime, right guys? [applause.]...When they're breaking into our cars...and making our kids afraid of what's happening around them, then we have to worry about it, right?" [applause]
Additional residents came forward and stated that their neighborhoods are experiencing increased crime that they are not willing to accept regardless of whether it's committed by homeless persons or others.
LBREPORT.com provides extended audio excerpts of what took place. To launch on-demand audio, click here.
[A "whoosh" sound indicates edits (mainly when issues digressed); we removed most speakers' last names; Matthew Barnett publicly identified himself as President of the El Dorado Park South Neighborhood Ass'n; we inserted a tone when speakers alleged crimes at specific locations.]
Residents described robberies, attempted auto and home burglaries with individuals prowling neighborhoods and trying to enter vehicles and residences, along with drug use, urinating and defecating. Some identified specific locations where they said crimes and drug deals occur. One woman reported a physical assault; others voiced concern for their children's safety. Several described transients trespassing on nearby private property with encampments along City or County owned property adjoining the San Gabriel River.
Multiple residents said they wanted to know why city officials seemingly tolerated these conditions, although they'd been reported by residents. Some said they'd reported crimes and chronic problem locations to LBPD with no visible effect; others said LBPD patrols were visibly scarce in their neighborhoods.
One resident commented, "I have seen only one patrol car with only one person in it in this whole area," in response to which LBPD East Division Commander Liz Griffin said [in the context of encouraging residents to form Community Watch groups in their neighborhoods to act as LBPD's eyes and ears]: "One of you guys mentioned two cops in a car. Of my God. I don't think don't I've had that since I started 25 years ago. I'd love to have two cops to a car. I'd love to have more patrol officers. Unfortunately, our budget constraints keep us from doing that, so we really need you guys to be the eyes and ears for us."
That subsequently triggered a response from Councilwoman Stacy Mungo who told the crowd:
[Councilwoman Mungo] I just want to clarify one issue. I appreciate Commander Griffin. [nearly three second pause] The reason we have the number of officers we have is not because we have a budget issue. The City Council continues to authorize the Police Department to hire police officers but you may have noticed that it is not very popular to be a police officer in America today. Our applications to be a police officer are down almost 80%. We just came through an Academy and when we put through 50 recruits, the quality of people who are applying to be police officers has declined and I don't know about you, but I'm not going to ride in a car, ask someone to respond who's not prepared to be a police officer. And of the 50, only 25 graduated.
Long Beach currently budgets roughly 200 fewer officers deployable citywide than the City provided in FY10 as a result of Council-voted LBPD budget reductions that began in FY10 and have left Long Beach today with roughly 20% fewer officers than the City had in 2009. Mayor Robert Garcia and city management have proposed that the Council restore 8 budgeted police officers citywide in City Hall's FY17 budget out of over 200 officers erased since FY10. The Council budget vote will be this coming Tuesday, September 13...at which time any of LB's nine Councilmember(s) can make motions, or support motions by others, to budget additional officers beyond the 8 proposed by the Mayor/management.
Councilwoman Mungo announced that at the upcoming Tuesday Sept. 13 Council meeting, she plans to propose spending $500,000 for "homelessness abatement" (presumably citywide) "in a way that we eliminate it through (1) reducing the time that it takes you to post and get out there; (2) empowering our officers and our outreach and (3)...I really feel passionately that if they had another $500,000, that would be two additional police officers and two additional firefighters who are paramedic-trained to be looking at the addiction component and the downcline [sp?] off of these drugs and doing a comprehensive program." Councilwoman Mungo added, "If you want to know more about that, it'll be at Council on Tuesday."
El Dorado Park South Neighborhood Ass'n President Matthew Barnett told the crowd that he supports Councilwoman Mungo's proposal.
The City of Long Beach currently provides its taxpayers with a (FY16) budgeted citywide deployable police level roughly equivalent per capita to what Los Angeles would have if it cut roughly 30% of LAPD's officers. Long Beach city management says ten LBPD officers cost roughly $1.5 million annually (pay + benefits). City Hall's General Fund budgeted spending will be over $400 million in FY17.
[LBREPORT.com has editorialized in favor of restoring 35 officers in FY17. Dan Pressburg, president of NLB's DeForest Park Neighborhood Association, speaking in his personal capacity has urged the Council to restore 30 officers (8 proposed by the Mayor/mgm't + 22 more).]
Responding to concerns about criminal and nuisance activity observed (and sometimes photographed) by residents, Commander Griffin noted that under the law, LBPD officers can't make arrests for misdemeanors unless the officer sees the crime committed in his/her presence, or a third party witnesses the action and agrees to make a "private person's arrest" (which the officer makes physically and requires the private person to testify in court.)
Acknowledging public complaints about nuisance and criminal activity in the Plaza area, an LBPD officer told the crowd that just a day earlier, he'd arrested and sent to jail a felony suspect in the Spring St./Palo Verde area. His statement drew applause from residents.
Organizer/moderator Murrin indicated he plans to have another grassroots meeting at the same location (eastern end of Atherton Street) tentatively planned for 7:00 p.m. on the first Wednesday in October.
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