“Why can’t this town, with a population of 25,000, have at least one dedicated police car?” That question, posed by one frustrated resident, was asked over and over again at last Thursday night’s Community Council meeting, which drew nearly 100 concerned citizens. “Where are the police when we need them?” asked another resident. “The LAPD is supposed to be there to serve and protect. But they aren’t doing that here in the Palisades.” The comment drew applause. After a heated two-hour exchange, which included testimonials from several victims of local crime, the council passed a motion to do whatever it takes to provide a police presence “24/7” in the Palisades, from pressuring the L.A. City Council to hire more police officers to paying for a private patrol car. The motion was put forward by Norm Kulla, the council’s Highlands representative, after Captain Mike Chambers of the LAPD’s West L.A. Division told the crowd that the best he could do was to insure a “dedicated” patrol car for Pacific Palisades, but only up to “four days a week” to start. While Chambers’ offer is an improvement over the amount of police protection Palisadians have now (one patrol car, on a daily basis, which is regularly called out of the area, often leaving the Palisades with no police presence at all) it did not satisfy resident Kevin Bird, a recent victim of an attempted robbery. “I was walking with my son on my shoulders near where I live [in the El Medio bluffs area] when I was held up by these two guys, one of whom held a semi-automatic gun at my stomach,” Bird said. “Why did it take the police 45 minutes to respond? That is just not good enough. In fact, it’s ridiculous for a town of this size.” Bird’s remarks were met with applause, as were Peter Carr’s. “We’re just kind of naked here,” said Carr, a recent burglary victim. “We’re sitting ducks is what it comes to. The fact is, I was burglarized in mid-November and I’m still waiting for a call from the LAPD to find out what’s happening to my case. ” Carr recounted how he came home one evening to discover his house in the Alphabet streets was being burglarized. “I saw my son’s piggy bank on the front porch and the burglar, who had broken into the side door, was busy stealing my wife’s bike while I waited outside for the police to come. About 25 minutes later a patrol car arrived, and somehow the burglar got away. I don’t blame the LAPD, which is so understaffed, but something has got to be done. We don’t feel safe here anymore.” Chambers assured Carr he would personally look into his case and explained the LAPD’s dilemma to the crowd. “The issue is deployment. There are currently only 9,300 police officers in the whole force. Do we need more cops? Absolutely. The West L.A. area is 64 square miles, the largest jurisdiction in Los Angeles County. And we only have seven cars, which can be called out at any time to deal with crime in other areas. Is that fair? No. But I do believe that West L.A. is getting its fair share, compared to other areas. The good news is that the Palisades is the safest place in the whole West L.A. division. In December there were a total of 37 crimes committed here. Compare that to areas where there are that many committed in a day.” Chambers said while statistically the Palisades does not warrant a full-time dedicated patrol, he would do what he could to improve the situation, given the “isolated nature” of the Palisades, and the perceived notion that crime here is on the rise. “This is a terrible frustration,” said the council’s Area 4 representative Larry Jacobs just before Kulla’s motion was passed. “The police just can’t do what we are asking them to do. The fact is, we have a homeland security problem right here in the Palisades and there’s no way for the police to solve it.” Talk then shifted to the possibility of hiring private patrols, which council advisor Paul Glasgall pointed out has been done very successfully in the Highlands (as well as in the Huntington Palisades). Another proposed solution was for Palisades residents to pay the city to hire off-duty and retired policemen to provide additional protection, as is done by Hollywood studios for movie and television production sites. “You can’t pay for your own cop,” noted one resident. “That would be considered unfair to all the other communities that can’t afford one.” Another option discussed briefly at the meeting was the proposed-and controversial- Asilomar gate. The electronically controlled gate, which would be installed across Asilomar at El Medio, would block vehicle access to the cul-de-sac on the bluffs. Discussion on the proposal, spearheaded by Asilomar resident Dr. Mark Kelly, resulted in a heated exchange between Kelly and El Medio resident Diana Mack, who is among those opposed to the gate. “I don’t think its right for anyone to try and privatize a public space,” said Mack, whose sentiment was shared by others in the crowd, including one man who yelled out “Go home” to Kelly, which prompted council chairman George Wolfberg to call the room to order. This also brought an end to the discussion. Later asked his reaction to Capt. Chambers’ commitment to increase patrols in the Palisades, Wolfberg called it “a stunning development. It’s better than what we have now.” On Monday night, Chambers returned to speak at an El Medio neighborhood meeting at Palisades High, organized by crime victim Kevin Bird. Chambers reiterated his commitment to increase patrol-car presence in the community. “Even though the Palisades is the safest place to live in West L.A., one crime is one crime too many, as far as I am concerned,” said Chambers, who expects a dedicated car to be in service by early February.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.