Downtown Needs More LAPD Foot Beats

The number of Los Angeles Police Department officers walking the streets of the Central City has increased.

In June, community group DTLA Strong, in partnership with the LAPD Central Division, announced that up to 10 additional officers have been authorized to walk foot beats in Downtown Los Angeles at various times throughout the day. It follows a prolonged campaign by the group to address concerns over public safety.

According to a press release issued by DTLA Strong, despite the City Council’s failure to provide additional funds to Central Division for more foot beats, the division was able to explore alternative avenues to bring more resources to the area.

Central Division Capt. Scott Harrelson told Los Angeles Downtown News that by shifting resources, he was able to ensure that different units within Central will dedicate portions of their shifts to patrolling the streets. That includes bike units, the Vice unit, the Special Problems Enforcement Unit and his Senior Lead Officers.

The location of the redeployed staff will be based on crime trends. The number of officers on the street can also vary depending on the daily resources available.

Previously, 13 officers and two sergeants were dedicated to patrolling Downtown streets; they are divided into pairs and spread through various districts. With the new allocations, up to 25 officers could be walking Downtown streets at any one time, though that does not mean the maximum figure will always be deployed.

“Central Division prides itself in our long-standing commitment to community policing,” Harrelson said in a prepared statement. “Our efforts around foot beats underscore our understanding that successful policing means meeting the community where they are.”

Shawn Smith, founder of the community watch group WatchDTLA, said that he has recently noticed an improvement in certain trouble spots such as Seventh and Spring streets in the Historic Core due to the increase of foot beats. He said it is particularly pronounced when the officers hold roll call openly on the streets, though he added that the impact waxes and wanes depending on the deployment.

“It does work, of course it works,” Smith said. “We just need more dedicated resources. Our city is growing, so we need more support.”

According to the LAPD, crime rose 6.1% in Downtown in 2018, the fifth consecutive year that it has increased. The most serious infractions, known as Part 1 crimes, rose to 7,442 incidents in 2018, up from 6,963 in 2017 and 6,151 in 2016. Violent crime however, decreased 7.7%, from 2,080 incidents in 2017 to 1,925 in 2018.

“As Downtown’s population — and tax base — has increased dramatically over the past five years, deployment and allocation of public safety resources has not kept up,” Anthony Bejarano, co-founder of DTLA Strong, said in a prepared statement. “With a spike in crime in our neighborhood, we wanted to spotlight this inequity and demand our fair share of City resources.”

DTLA Strong has been lobbying the City Council to allocate more money for public safety in Downtown. The group organized a petition campaign that gathered 1,750 signatures from local residents and workers. In May, it sent nearly 100 Downtown residents to City Council budget hearings to lobby for additional public safety resources.

sean@downtownnews.com