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LITTLE TOKYO : Merchants Seek Police Substation

October 11, 1992|IRIS YOKOI

Leaders of a new community group hope to establish a police substation in Little Tokyo to provide bilingual assistance in reporting crimes.

Members of the Greater Little Tokyo Anti-Crime Assn., which formed in January to forge closer ties with the Los Angeles Police Department, hope to locate a ko - ban in a storefront space in a city-owned building near San Pedro and 1st streets.

The ko-ban would be staffed by bilingual volunteers. Police officers would stop in to take reports and provide information and assistance, similar to an arrangement used in Chinatown for the past nine years.

Such small police booths are found on many street corners in Japan, providing victims with a convenient and unintimidating place to report crimes. Little Tokyo community leaders hope a similar setup here will encourage crime victims, particularly tourists, to report even small incidents such as car burglaries rather than take the typical attitude of shoganai ("It can't be helped").

"A lot of crimes in Little Tokyo go unreported mainly because of the language barrier," said Brian Kito, a business owner and member of the association. "And this (substation) would help take off some of the time constraints on the Los Angeles Police Department."

Community leaders are talking with municipal officials about leasing space in the city-owned building, which is undergoing seismic improvements and should be ready for occupation in three to five months, said Satoru Uyeda, an association member.

Little Tokyo business owners formed the association after a rash of car burglaries at the end of last year. Business owners said they feared that crime and an increase in panhandling would drive away customers, particularly the nighttime restaurant clientele.

The association took its concerns to the Police Department and got immediate response in the form of increased patrols, Kito said.

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