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Arcadia Police Call Meeting to Allay Crime Wave Rumors

August 11, 1985|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

ARCADIA — One woman thought the slayings of two Temple City teen-agers and their grandmother were connected with a string of killings and assaults that has caused increasing anxiety among residents of this upper-middle-class community.

Another had heard rumors that children were being snatched off bicycles and abducted.

A third had heard that people were being followed home from Santa Anita Fashion Park, a major shopping center here.

Police indicated that most of the rumors floating around at a nervous gathering of an estimated 400 Arcadia residents, called by the Arcadia Police Department, were untrue.

"We want to lay to rest a lot of rumors," Capt. Neal Johnson told residents at the meeting Wednesday night at 1st Avenue Junior High School.

"We hear rumors that (more) people are being killed here and that is not true. We have had two murders (this year) in Arcadia, and the last was July 2. It is not true that we are not telling you what is going on in the community."

Seven Los Angeles-area police agencies are investigating whether 12 or 13 slayings, including two in Arcadia, one in Monrovia and two in Monterey Park, and 16 to 18 assaults are the work of a lone killer who attacks people as they sleep.

Johnson said Arcadia police have set up a rumor control center and asked residents to call police if they hear rumors of crime in their neighborhoods.

"We will either squelch it or tell you it is true," he said.

Questions from the audience indicated just how active the rumor mill is in Arcadia, where murders occur rarely.

"I have heard of children being taken off their bikes," said one resident, who asked not to be identified. "Is this true or a rumor?"

Johnson said it was not true but suggested that parents urge their children not to ride bicycles unaccompanied.

"I have heard that people are being followed home from the mall (Santa Anita Fashion Park)," said another.

"This is not true," Johnson replied. "Since the mall was built we have had only one rape reported."

But Johnson admitted that some of the rumors are true.

One woman said she had heard that a child was abducted from a home on 1st Avenue, but had no further information. Johnson confirmed that incident and said the abductor got into the house through an open window and took the child, who was found in Los Angeles. He assured the audience that police are working on the case.

Other questions centered on what police are doing about the Arcadia murders.

Johnson said car patrols have been doubled and plainclothes officers are working extra hours. He said that instead of the usual five cars on the street on overnight shifts, there are now seven or eight.

He said that police response time to the 911 emergency phone number is less than three minutes and that if the police cannot get into the house from which a call was made, officers will force entry if they think something is wrong.

Johnson also elaborated on the Arcadia slayings, providing information that had not been made public.

He said that in both cases the killer forced entry into the homes. There were no witnesses in either case so there is no description of the suspect, as there is in one Monterey Park slaying. He added that he thought it was possible that the deaths in the two communities could be connected.

Johnson said police depend on the public for information and encouraged residents to phone police if they see or hear anything unusual.

Don Alcorn, the department's crime prevention officer, said police hope to work more with residents to strengthen the city's Neighborhood Watch program.

Block Captains Important

Arcadia Neighborhood Watch programs do not have block captains, volunteers who work closely with police in disseminating information.

"The block captains will be a liaison between me and the community," he said.

Alcorn is also in charge of Operation Lockout, a program in which a homeowner can request that a police officer visit the home to survey security measures.

Alcorn, who said earlier that there has been an increase in requests for security checks since the Arcadia slayings, cautioned residents against sleeping with windows open.

"Once I had a request from a woman to do a security check," he said. "She worked, so we agreed to meet at her house during her lunch hour. As I approached the house I saw every window open. She said she needed the air and she also slept with the windows open.

Victim Had Windows Open

"I told her we had had one woman murdered in Arcadia who slept with her windows open.

"You don't have to sleep with open windows. If you do you are asking for trouble."

Before the meeting, several women in the audience said they had taken safety precautions because they were frightened. Some said they were resentful because they felt compelled to change their life styles because of the killings.

"I am keeping my windows closed now because I am scared. But I feel it is an invasion of privacy and that makes me angry to think that someone could invade my house," Marlene Brooks said.

Three elderly women had arrived together, thinking there was safety in numbers in venturing out at night.

"We won't give our names," one said, "and now you know how scared we really are.

"I am afraid. I am not sleeping at night. I have my windows nailed shut and I keep the floodlights on."

Added her friend, "I feel it is an invasion of my life style because I am afraid to go out at night."

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