Robberies in West Hollywood dropped by a third during the past fiscal year because the Sheriff's Department used an increase in its budget to put more deputies on the street, according to Capt. James Cook.
Cook said 30 more sworn officers have been hired since the city incorporated last year and raised the Sheriff's Department budget for West Hollywood to $7 million.
"Most of the robbers in our area are just opportunists driving around at night looking for victims on the street," said Sgt. Larry Schwartz, head of the sheriff's crime prevention unit. "When they see two or three patrols cruising around, they go somewhere else."
The decrease in the number of robberies from 487 to 320 is part of an overall drop of 11% in the rate of major crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary and theft, reported in West Hollywood.
In contrast, Hollywood's crime rate dropped by less than 1% between 1984 and 1985, and the number of robberies rose about 5%, according to Officer Angelo Morton of the Los Angeles Police Department.
In Beverly Hills, the number of robberies dropped by more than half, from 113 in the first six months of 1985 to 51 in the first six months of this year, according to police Lt. Bill Hunt.
"We don't really know why since we haven't added any programs or people," Hunt said. "But if there's one preventable crime that will respond to higher police visibility, it's robbery."
Schwartz said five more cars patrol the streets of West Hollywood during the day and eight more patrol at night as a result of the city's contract and increased budget for the Sheriff's Department. Before West Hollywood incorporated, law enforcement in the area was the county's responsibility.
The Sheriff's Department requested $7.7 million from the city this year, but got only $7.3 million, said Ray Randolph, West Hollywood finance officer.
Schwartz said the special problems unit, which handles everything from male prostitution to mail theft, had to cut two deputies in July because the county began charging more for contract services.
Despite the decrease in the rate of major crimes, some members of the Lexington Area Neighborhood Watch are not satisfied. They are particularly upset with the presence of male prostitutes on Santa Monica Boulevard between Fairfax and La Brea avenues. Law officers say the male prostitutes commit robberies and other crimes.
"Since the advent of cityhood, the Sheriff's Department has had more foot patrols, additional people and cars--where are they?" asked Ruth Williams, chairman of the Lexington area watch group. "We've lived with this situation for years and we want something done about it now."
However, owners of businesses on Santa Monica Boulevard said they have seen a decrease in criminal activity in the past two years.
"They've cleaned it up a great deal, but it's a constant problem," said Ardison Phillips, who owns a restaurant five blocks west of La Brea on Santa Monica. "It's worse some days than on others. The kids come back when the deputies are called away, and they have to be sometimes, right?"
Schwartz said he sympathizes with the neighbors' concerns.
"If I lived down there, I'd be concerned too," he said, "but it's a matter of juggling resources. All the business and neighborhood watch groups are hollering for foot patrols."