By Pat KRAMER, STNC Region 1 Rep
On Thursday, March 24 several LAPD officers attended a Sunland-Tujunga meeting to address growing concerns about transient and drug crimes as well as drag racing and other issues. The event was sponsored by Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Safety Chairperson Nina Royal and was held at the Elks Club on Commerce Avenue. Guest speakers included Commander Chamberlain, Homeless Coordinator for the City of L.A.; LAPD Lt. Solano, who oversees gangs and narcotics; LAPD Transportation Officer Flores and Captain Eskridge.
Commander Chamberlain opened the meeting by telling residents that a new law went into effect two or three years ago that prevents police from going through transient encampments and confiscating their belongings. But there is now a proposed law before the Los Angeles City Council – No. 56.11 – which would allow police and sanitation to go through the possessions of homeless when the items are left out in the open. Currently, a team known as the Reset Team goes to transient cleanup sites with representatives from the Dept. of Sanitation to identify bioenvironmental hazards that may exist in cleanup sites.
Chamberlain mentioned that many homeless do not want short-term housing, that they are “service-resistant.” He pointed out that being homeless is not considered a crime but added that it is not humane to enable human beings to live in tents. He suggested that handouts of clothing to the homeless may actually create a larger issue with trash accumulations.
Captain Eskridge spoke about the LAPD Transient Car that focuses specifically on transients committing crimes. In order to support police investigations, he suggested that businesses and residents install video cameras, so if a crime is committed, there is proof to prosecute the offenders. He added that today’s technology is very inexpensive and can provide very good quality surveillance for properties.
Lt. Solano spoke about how his work involves reducing the number of violent crimes that go hand-in-hand with gangs and narcotics so he can rebuild the community’s trust. He gave a report on what is going on with the local gangs in the Sunland-Tujunga area and how the number of crimes has been reduced. For example, of 18 previous marijuana dispensaries in the Sunland-Tujunga Foothill area, only a few locations now operate.
LAPD Traffic Officer Flores of the Community Traffic Safety Unit then reviewed stats on the number of traffic incidents in the valley last year. Of 17,000 total, 1,600 were in Sunland-Tujunga and five involved fatalities. That number is now up to 13 fatalities in 2016.
Residents questioned how to deal with illegal street racing, a big issue for the Sunland-Tujunga community. Though told that police are spread thin currently, residents were told to report street racing to LAPD and they will respond as soon as possible. They also advised that, as with any police activity, it’s always best to report the incident to the police and let them investigate instead of residents attempting to resolve it.
Important phone numbers to call to report crimes: 911 for emergencies only.
For other LAPD non-emergencies relating to gangs and/or drugs contact Lt. Carlos Solano at (818) 897-6081 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For issues regarding narcotics, contact Det. Travis Coyle at (818) 834-3136 or email email@example.com. Traffic issues can be referred to Officer Joel Flores at (818) 644-8142.
General LAPD phone number is (818) 834-3115 and the Anonymous Tip Line is (800) 222-8477.