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Beach Cities' 'Community Awareness' Premieres on Cable : TV's Newest Police Show Aims for High Ratings in Fight Against Crime

May 04, 1986|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

Take a shabby warehouse with a dusty floor and a few forgotten piles of junk.

Plaster the walls with dozens of egg cartons, lay a gray mat on the floor, hang some long curtains and toss the junk out the back door.

Add a few donated chairs, some plants, a couple of police officers, a radio talk-show host, some television cameras, a few telephone lines and a map of Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach.

Roll the cameras. Repeat.

Wait for the crime rate to drop.

"That's TV," said Manhattan Beach Police Officer Andy Harrod. "It is the best way to reach the most . . . people with the least . . . time and effort."

First Telecast

Harrod, crime prevention officer for Manhattan Beach, and Officer Tom Thompson, his counterpart in Hermosa Beach, flashed their smiles on television screens across the two beach cities last week in the first of a series of live telecasts on Storer Cable Television aimed at reducing crime by educating residents in crime-prevention techniques.

The half-hour show, modeled after an award-winning monthly program launched last summer by the Oxnard Police Department, is the first live crime prevention program to be telecast on cable in the Los Angeles area. It is sponsored by the police departments in the two beach cities and by Storer Cable.

While the cable company does not know how many of its 12,000 subscribers tuned in to the first show last Monday night, the show's organizers are predicting that the telecast will develop a regular following, based on the success story coming from Oxnard.

Steve Alpert, station manager for Jones Intercable Inc. in Oxnard, said the Oxnard program, which airs once a month for 2 1/2 hours, is the top-rated local cable program in the city.

Estimate of Viewers

Alpert estimates that each show reaches between 8,000 and 10,000 of its 33,000 subscribers. Traditional Neighborhood Watch meetings held at homes or community centers, by contrast, attract several dozen residents at most.

David Keith, crime prevention coordinator for the Oxnard Police Department, said he has met with officials from dozens of cities statewide--including Los Angeles, Pasadena and Long Beach--who are interested in starting crime prevention television shows in their cities. He said the Hermosa Beach-Manhattan Beach production, however, is the first telecast outside Oxnard to get off the ground.

The Oxnard television program, which was cited for excellence last year by Gov. George Deukmejian, is credited with helping bring down the crime rate, Keith said. The overall rate of reported crimes dropped 9% in 1985 from the previous year--the sharpest drop in the state for cities over 100,000--and the burglary rate dropped 16%, he said.

"I think cities with limited resources are going to have to go this way," said Keith, who was born and raised in Redondo Beach. "It also has rejuvenated community interest in Neighborhood Watch programs. Public awareness is everything in this program. If we can make people aware, we start to see results."

Edie Webber, director of the Storer Cable production and a former Hermosa Beach city councilwoman, proposed the local program to the Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach Police Departments after viewing a tape of the Oxnard show at a crime prevention seminar in Los Angeles several months ago.

Webber said the show is designed to do what traditional Neighborhood Watch programs in Hermosa Beach have been unable to do: reach a broad audience.

'Watch TV'

"Most of the people in our town work, and the last thing they want to do when they come home is go out to a Neighborhood Watch meeting," Webber said. "This way, they don't have to open up their homes or go out to a neighborhood meeting. They can just sit at home in their living rooms and watch TV."

The local show, called "Community Awareness," will air live the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 10. Tapes of the shows will be repeated on the first and third Mondays.

The shows are being broadcast from a warehouse-turned-studio behind Storer Cable's offices on Valley Drive in Hermosa Beach. The burden of renovating the dilapidated building has fallen on Doug Nielsen, who heads local programming for the cable company.

Much of the work has been done by volunteers, and most of the materials used for the set were donated, said Del Winkler, Storer Cable general manager. Storer Cable provides the air time as part of its community service programming, he said.

"This is a first for Storer. This room used to be an empty barn," Winkler said. "The more aware we make people of crime prevention the better it is for everybody concerned. This is a very necessary part of our contribution to the community."

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