By Theresa Torrance, NCWP Board Member
On Tuesday, January 23, the Public Safety Committee of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa held its first meeting of the New Year. Committee Chair John Logsdon invited LAPD Pacific Division Captain Applegate, our area Senior Lead Officers Pinell and Perez, other LAPD officers and burglary detectives, to address the issue of increasing crime in Westchester and Playa del Rey. The hot topic of the night was the staggering number of residential burglaries as well as the recent car break-ins of 51 vehicles in the early morning hours of January 20. The crime streak began in the area between 80th and 85th street and Loyola as well as the areas of 80th and Berger, 81st and Rayford and 80th and Park Hill, and they believe it occurred over a period of roughly six hours between 12:45-7a.m. based on some eyewitness accounts.
The meeting started off with Captain Applegate introducing our Senior Lead and other attending officers, and Detective Lieutenant Samuel Rhone introducing some of the burglary detectives who are handling the investigations. A considerable amount of time was dedicated to providing crime stats, the status of pending investigations, and tips for the community to protect themselves and their property.
LAPD Detective Robyn Salazar provided crime stats for the period of October through December 2023, reporting there were 91 burglaries between October and December of 2023 in Westchester/Playa del Rey; 75 of them were home burglaries and the remainder commercial. She also made it a point to advise that there is a significant difference between a “burglary” and a “robbery;” – a burglary is when someone enters your property and commits a felony by stealing your personal property, while a robbery is when there is a threat or harm to a person in order to take something from them.
Some important take-aways and advice from Detective Salazar included:
• Most of the burglaries happened on Mondays and Tuesdays between noon-8pm, and are rear entry with the suspects smashing sliding glass doors or windows.
• She advised the public to NOT touch anything if they are the victim of a burglary, as it taints any analysis of fingerprints and DNA. Unfortunately the wait for the crime scene analysis can take several hours and the test results can take anywhere between 3-6 months.
• Side gates are definitely a deterrent. Although criminals sometimes will hop gates, most prefer easy targets of an accessible side yard. Homes with high vegetation are sometimes targeted so good to have motion detection lighting around your home and prune vegetation.
• CALL 911 if you hear anything like breaking glass at your neighbors house, or if you see a group of people in a car wearing hoodies and masks. Do not wait.
• Lock your doors and windows even when you are at home.
• Use double paned glass on windows and doors if possible.
• Use an audible alarm and make sure to always set it when leaving the house.
• Consider adding glass break sensors to your home alarm system.
• Dogs are also a good deterrent.
LAPD Detective Levesque (310-482-6367 • email@example.com), who is in charge of the investigation for the 51 car break-ins, said he has spoken to many of the neighbors trying to gather information, including camera footage, and that although he has received footage to date, it is grainy and tough to clearly see the criminals but he said they appear to be between the ages of 16-20 and were breaking into cars that were parked on the street. During public comment on this agenda item, community member and NCWP board member Debra Huston read a statement on behalf of a resident who could not attend the meeting but lives in the area where the car break-ins occurred, and she encapsulated the magnitude of the crime spree based on what she saw when she said, “It was like an act of terrorism due to the scale of damage caused.”
Some take-aways and advice from Detective Levesque included:
• If you can, park your car in your garage, or at least your driveway. All of the cars in this 51 car break-in streak were parked on the street.
• Always lock your vehicle if parked outside.
• It is best not to leave anything in your car, but if you must, hide them from plain sight.
Committee member Chip Mallek brought up the importance and necessity of Neighborhood Watch programs throughout our community as it is the best first line of defense when neighbors know each other, know each other’s schedules/patterns and have each other’s contact information. Neighborhood Watch street signs can also be requested and installed by the City Council office. For those who want to create a Watch on their block, you may contact our Senior Lead Officers at the emails contained at the bottom of this article for some helpful tips to create and maintain a Watch group. Dylan Strickland, CD11’s Field Deputy for the area, advised that the Council Office is exploring and researching the possibility of Real Time Crime Centers. In short, the idea would set up infrastructure within the Police Department that allows LAPD to create a link between their internal systems and cameras of local residents, businesses, and willing community members.
Several attendees and committee members expressed frustration over the RV dwellers that continue to reside in the municipal parking lot and pressed for their removal.
Dylan wrapped up his update with a discussion about the addition of the LAPD Circle Team – an initiative from Mayor Karen Bass’s office that is essentially an LAPD subgroup, responding to non-violent LAPD calls largely centered around mental health concerns and others experiencing crisis.
The evening ended with a brief presentation from head of Security at Otis College, Steve McQueen, mainly to address and speak about the challenges of the unregulated RV encampment on Loyola next to the campus. Although there has not been much crime to report, the school gets many calls from concerned and frustrated parents about the issue. He advised that the vehicle dwellers refuse to move but they are working with the Councilmember’s office on the issue.
Anastasia Olmos from NBC news was present at the meeting to report on the incidents, concern in the community and action being taken by LAPD.
Contact info for our Senior Lead Officers for Westchester/Playa are:
Officer Pinell – firstname.lastname@example.org
Officer Perez – email@example.com
Officer Ramirez – firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note: The February NCWP meeting has been rescheduled to February 13. Learn more at ncwpdr.org.