Assault, rape rates up in LA

Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck speak about crime statistics at a recent conference held at the 77th Division station in South L.A. | Daina Beth Solomon

Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck speak about crime statistics at a recent conference held at the 77th Division station in South L.A. | Daina Beth Solomon

The rate of assault in the city of Los Angeles increased 19.4 percent compared to this time last year, according to LAPD crime statistics announced yesterday. Rape has also increased 8.6 percent.

At the police commissioners meeting, Los Angeles Police Department Police Chief Charlie Beck said homicide, however, is going down: It has decreased 7.2 percent.

In South L.A., the numbers are going down for serious crimes. Homicide, rape, aggravated assault, burglary and theft are down 4.3 percent compared to this time last year.

Beck said the 19.4 percent increase in the rate of assault is likely primarily driven by an increase in domestic violence reports.

“It’s a grossly underreported crime which means even a small increase in willingness to report can lead to a large increase in the number of reports,” Beck said.

“This is a problem that has a lot of layers and I know many things we can do to reduce it,” he continued. “I know many things that are effective that we do to reduce the numbers but the causal factors are much more difficult.”

LAPD Officer Liliana Preciado said it is important that residents continue to report instances of domestic violence.

“People are reporting this more,” she said. “Obviously there’s no way for us to know why it goes up or down in this particular period but we are always encouraging victims to come forward.”

An unexplained death in South LA

The South L.A. apartment where the LAPD found Stanley Thiesfield | Daina Beth Solomon

The South L.A. apartment where the LAPD found Stanley Thiesfield | Daina Beth Solomon

When police officers arrived at a two-room apartment just south of USC last fall to investigate complaints of foul odors, they found a body decomposed beyond recognition.

Something else caught their attention, too — the black electrical cord knotted around the man’s neck.

A Los Angeles Police detective declared the apartment a crime scene and set about collecting mail, business cards, fingerprints, DNA samples — anything that might offer clues about the dead man’s life, and how and why he’d died. A driver’s license revealed a name: Stanley Thiesfield.

Almost a year later, the fact that Thiesfield died at age 59 remains one of the only conclusions of the investigation. 
[Read more…]

USC grad student murder leads to four arrests + Frank Gehry design coming to South LA

Commander Andrew Smith and others discuss the four arrests made in the killing of a USC student. | Daina Beth Solomon

Commander Andrew Smith and others discuss the four arrests made in the killing of a USC student. | Daina Beth Solomon

Reuters: The case of a Chinese graduate student at USC who was beaten to death has lead to the arrests of four suspects.

SF Bay View: The Leimert Park Village Book Fair will be coming back for its eighth year.

LA Times: Famed architect Frank Gehry has signed on to design a community center, just half a block north of the Watts Towers.

KCET: Restaurateur Brad Johnson brings his Post and Beam restaurant to Crenshaw.

NPR: Crime writer Rachel Hall sets her new book and protagonist in South L.A.

City collects 950 guns in buyback

Commander Andrew Smith holds a 9mm handgun. | Daina Beth Solomon

Commander Andrew Smith holds a 9mm handgun. | Daina Beth Solomon

A World War II rifle outfitted with a grenade launcher, a 9mm handgun inlaid with silver and a Mexican flag emblem, and the type of semi-automatic rifle used by the Sandy Hook gunman will soon meet the same fate: meltdown.

The Los Angeles Police Department collected 950 weapons last weekend in its eighth annual buyback program that gives Angelenos gift cards for guns, no questions asked.

See also on Intersections: Tackling gun violence in South LA

Police Chief Charlie Beck said the program intends to rid homes and streets of “unwanted” arms. [Read more…]

USC student tells of racial profiling in South LA

Tobi Oduguwa looks out onto the street where he said he experienced racial profiling in the area near USC. | Lensa Bogale

Tobi Oduguwa looks out onto the street where he said he experienced racial profiling in the area near USC. | Lensa Bogale

Tobi Oduguwa is a University of Southern California junior double-majoring in computer science and physics. But as a black man two inches over six-feet-tall, he gets asked what position he plays on basketball team more often than his major. The question comes up so often that he has given himself his own, unofficial basketball number.

“If you hear about a point-guard named number six, that’s actually me,” said Oduguwa.

But the assumptions aren’t always so harmless.

Oduguwa learned the hard way when officers from the USC Department of Public Safety stopped him one night outside of his apartment and, without explanation, asked to see his ID.

After being question, Oduguwa realized that he was suspected of choking a young woman in the building across from his own. It wasn’t until a friend vouched for Oduguwa that he was finally released. [Read more…]

Crime survivors likely to be victims of crime again

One in five people in California has been a victim of crime in the past five years, according to a study released Tuesday by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California Berkeley’s School of Law. The study was commissioned by Californians for Safety and Justice.

The study is called Untold Stories of California Crime Victims: Research and Recommendations on Repeat Victimization and Rebuilding Lives.  It is based on interviews and focus groups with people who have been victims of repeat crimes.

“People in certain communities are more likely to be repeated victims of crimes,” said Lenore Anderson, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice.

Low income communities, people of color and young people are more at risk of being repeatedly victimized, according to Anderson.

This story from Annenberg Radio News features comments from Anderson and LAPD Officer Munish Bharadwaja of the 77th Street Police Station.

South LA residents are concerned about upcoming sequestration

By Katie Lyons

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News.

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The highly controversial sequestration has finally arrived and will go into effect starting tomorrow. Unless Congress passes a last-minute deal, $85 billion will be cut from the federal budget putting as many 750,000 federal jobs at risk.

South Los Angeles residents are worried about how the cuts will impact their lives. One resident in particular, Barry Brewer, is worried about crime. [Read more…]

Law enforcement officials praise success of South LA task force

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageLos Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday he was proud of the results from the second year of Save Our Streets, a three-month collaboration between South Los Angeles police officers and the FBI.

This summer, the task force solved 50 murders, 85 percent of them gang-related. They included the Christmas Day shooting of Kashmier James ,who was killed in front of her 3-year-old daughter, and the killing later that week of Taburi Watson a 14-year-old boy riding his bicycle.

LAPD Deputy Chief Pat Gannon said the program helped bring closure to families who otherwise might never find answers.

“The homicide detectives, they do what they do, they get out at all hours of the night, they pull their hair out trying to find witnesses and people to cooperate in investigations, and they do it for the families,” he said. “The bond that they actually have with these families is actually unbelievable. But there’s a lot more work to be done.”

That work includes nearly 1,000 more unsolved homicides, some dating back to 1978. South Los Angeles remains far from safe, as a deadly shooting Tuesday at Algin Sutton Park on Hoover Street illustrated.

But Beck, and Stephen Martinez, the assistant director of the FBI in Los Angeles, worry that the program might not be renewed for another year. It relies on hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds to pay FBI agents and allow LAPD officers to work overtime, as well as to support an effort to digitize years of records.

“It is a sad but true statement to say that our ability to solve crime is often hampered by lack of funds,” Beck said. “When we can get federal funds, and we can get federal support, we can make a lot of progress, as has been evidenced by this task force.”

Gannon said the LAPD could use the help.

“The work goes on,” he said. “With the resources, without the resources, we seem to get the job done. But having the FBI really puts a jump-start, a kick-start into some of the cases that may have fallen behind.”

Beck said he’s hoping for a decision on the funding within the next six months, so that the program could be re-instated for next summer.

City Council offers $75,000 reward for information on shooting of South LA toddler

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a motion authored by Council President Pro Tempore Jan Perry that authorized the issuance of a $75,000 reward for information leading to the identification and apprehension of the person or persons responsible for a shooting that killed 22-month old, Joshua Montes, and left his uncle, Josefat Canchola, in critical condition.

On May 23, 2011, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Josefat Canchola was holding his 22-month old nephew, Joshua Montes, on their front porch at 1278 East 55th Street when gunfire broke out and both were struck in the head. Joshua Montes died as a result of his injuries that evening and his uncle remains in critical condition.

“It is my hope that this reward will help us find the person or persons responsible for this unimaginable crime,” said Council President Pro Tempore Jan Perry in a press release. “These people obviously have no regard for human life and we need to do everything in our power to find them before they hurt anyone else.”

If you have any information regarding this shooting, please contact Newton Area Detectives at (323) 846-6556. On the weekends and during off-hours, please contact the 24-hour toll free number at the detective Information desk, at 1-888-LAPD-24-7. Anonymous tips can also be left at the 24-hour hotline number.

Q&amp;A: Hawthorne officer unites police department and community in fighting crime

imageIt takes a village to stop crime, in the eyes of Lt. Steven Romero of the Hawthorne Police Department.

In 2007, Romero developed CHAT (Citizens of Hawthorne Action Team), a community-based network that combines neighborhood watch programs, citizen safety patrols, emergency preparedness education and philanthropic efforts to reduce crime and build community in Hawthorne. Romero, a Hawthorne native, divides his time between supervising the entire Hawthorne Police Department patrol division, coaching the wrestling team at La Serna High School in Whittier, and completing a master’s degree in public administration at California State University, Fullerton.

Intersections South LA’s Lisa Rau sat down with Romero to talk about his role in the Hawthorne Police Department and the police department’s role in its community.

Lisa Rau: What makes Hawthorne different from other cities, in terms of its relationship with the police department?

Steven Romero: We’ve been able to establish a continual collaboration among both private and public sectors. Over here, we have the private sector being part of the entire wheel. They have say-so. They have input. They collectively work with local government and public safety agencies to make sure that these missions are achieved. Usually in other cities, that’s still bifurcated. You don’t have the two working together as a group.

LR: Have you seen any changes in crime since CHAT began?

SR: Absolutely. In fact, this last holiday season, we saw a drastic reduction in burglaries to autos, purse snatches and theft-related crimes at the shopping centers when the CHAT program was out there doing community patrols because it’s a high-visibility program. It’s a deterrent. We absolutely experienced less of a police response because these groups were out there doing proactive patrolling.

LR: Police departments all have their own styles. How would you describe the Hawthorne Police Department’s law enforcement style?

SR: We went from a law enforcement philosophy to more of a community-oriented philosophy. It’s just understanding and adopting the private sector into law enforcement, sharing the responsibility and working together with community members to solve the problems. Before, we would just throw a bunch of cops at the problem. But now, we actually turn to technology, the private sector and participants who come in and give us recommendations and even help us with developing programs.

LR: You mentioned technology. Do you mean social media? What kind of technology has the department implemented?

SR: We have a Twitter network that we use to get information out to the community. We use Facebook here. The CHAT website is a way to reach out to the community. We try to be innovative in the sense of being ahead of the curve and trying to stay in front of technology.

LR: What kind of things are posted the Twitter account?

SR: We publish real-time situations. If we’re responding to a crime and we don’t want the community to come into that particular environment or area, we’ll throw it on Twitter, and that’ll publish out to anybody who follows us on there. Like, hey, this area is closed for this reason.

On Facebook, they can submit inquiries to us about our policies and procedures, incidents that are taking place, or incidents that have taken place.

LR: I understand you recently went back to school as a graduate student. Can you tell me about that?

SR: My emphasis is in finance with a secondary emphasis in statistics. Basically, the purpose of attending that program with those particular emphases is because in law enforcement, we’re typically taught how to be law enforcers. However, we’re not really taught to manage public assets or how to actually procure assets and be a manager of everything you’re entrusted with.

LR: A lot of police departments are encountering financial strain due to budget cuts. How has this affected your department?

SR: All of our employees are taking furloughs. Mandatory furloughs. We did do some cutbacks in all budget areas, everything from equipment and operating costs to salaries and benefits. The employees have been very flexible, and we’ve all kind of worked together to try to get through these times. And I think we’re doing pretty well compared to some of our local agencies. Just the furloughs, I think, are the biggest strain for the employees.

Day-to-day operations, we’re still providing the same service that we did even before budget cuts, and even before these last two years of financial strains. We’re maintaining. Actually, in the process of restructuring our entire police department, we’re creating new offices, new assignments. So we’re actually ahead of the game, I think.

LR: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the Hawthorne Police Department?

SR: I’ve been very happy with my agency, and I would challenge any other agency to adopt some of our ways. And I think the citizens here are getting probably the best service that they’ll get from any agency across the country. We truly set the bar very high here, and I truly think we deliver a service that other agencies do not.

This interview was edited and condensed.

Photo Credit: Lisa Rau

More stories on police officers in South Los Angeles:

LAPD officers trade policing for mentoring with PAL program

Jury finds in favor of police officer in South L.A. wrongful death case

Los Angeles Police Department argues nonprofits are better than handouts on Skid Row