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Residents Determined to Make Parole Office Move

July 09, 1989|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

Michael Aros, the supervisor of the state parole office in the California Heights section of Long Beach, says he has tried to please the neighbors.

Parole agents make more field visits to reduce the number of parolees who stop by the Wardlow Road office. Better lighting has been provided around the nondescript office building. The parking arrangement was changed, then changed again, at the request of neighbors.

Aros said he has met with residents and will take any steps to allay their concerns that the ex-cons pose a threat to their safety or are responsible for a sudden, steep increase in the area's burglary rate.

But he said he cannot honor their most vociferous request--that the office move out of the neighborhood.

No Control Over Moving

"If there's a complaint, just let us know," he said. "We'll always work out something. The only thing we can't do is move. I have no control over that."

Residents of the stately, close-knit neighborhood say nothing short of closing the office will do.

"We would like them out of there. We are turning over every stone possible," said Tom Calvert, a block captain for the Neighborhood Watch program on Lime Avenue. "It's just totally insensitive."

Opponents cite police statistics to support their concerns.

Long Beach police say the number of residential burglaries in California Heights increased 54% in the nine months after the parole office opened.

"There have been several months where a high volume (of) incidents has occurred, especially in . . . the area directly east of the parole office," Police Chief Lawrence L. Binkley reported in a memorandum to Councilman Ray Grabinski.

Signal Hill Police Chief Michael McCrary noted a "drastic increase" in garage burglaries in the western section of the city since the parole office opened Sept. 1, 1988. Many of the garages are accessible from alleys, defeating the best lookouts among Neighborhood Watch groups.

'It's Very Coincidental'

Asked whether the presence of the parole office was responsible for the crime wave, McCrary replied: "I can't say it is or it isn't. . . . It's very coincidental."

Aros asserted that allegations tying parolees to the burglaries are groundless. There is no proof that any of the crimes were committed by parolees, he said.

"We're very concerned about this. We don't want anyone to think because we're here, the crime rate goes up," he said. "There's no hard data to support that."

Grabinski has fired off letters to local legislators and to Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana to enlist their help in booting the parole office out of California Heights. The councilman said the office, which is within three to six blocks of four elementary and junior high schools, is regularly visited by paroled sex and drug offenders.

Perturbed by Move

Despite efforts to minimize the office's impact on the neighborhood, Grabinski said he is perturbed that the office was moved to the Wardlow Road location in the first place.

He pointed out that state leasing agents apparently disregarded Mayor Ernie Kell's recommendation that they choose an industrial area site in an unincorporated area on West Del Amo Boulevard. The state leasing agent could not be reached for comment.

The office serves as a base for parole officers overseeing 1,700 parolees in the southern parts of Los Angeles County, from Redondo Beach to the Orange County line. Long Beach accounts for about 1,200 parolees, Aros said.

He said special efforts have been made to reduce the number of office visits made by parolees. Parole officers make more field visits to keep tabs on parolees. The office is no longer used for drug testing at night.

Up to 650 Visits Monthly

Still, he said, there about 600 to 650 visits to the office by parolees each month. Night visits have been limited to parolees who attend a group meeting with a psychiatrist.

As long as the parole office remains, residents say there is little the office staff can do to make them happy.

About 70 residents met with Aros at the parole office recently to discuss their concerns. "They asked, 'What could we do to be good neighbors?' We said, 'Move!"' Calvert recalled.

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