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Councilman's Budget Excess Pays Off in Anti-Crime Efforts : Law enforcement: Savings from Marvin Braude's office funds go to programs such as a special police unit that has arrested two suspects in a string of 20 robberies.


WEST LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Marvin Braude's scrimping on staff salaries and interior decorator fees seems to have paid off for the Los Angeles Police Department.

An LAPD special operations unit, funded in part by leftovers from Braude's office budget, last week nabbed a pair of suspects wanted for more than 20 robberies during a weeklong crime spree.

Made up of 10 officers and a sergeant, the squad has concentrated on neighborhoods where violent crimes have been reported, Capt. Gary Brennan, commander of the LAPD's West L.A. area, told a meeting of PACT (Police and Community Together) on Tuesday.

Since the squad was deployed, "there has not been a single robbery, carjacking or follow-home robbery in the areas where they have worked," Brennan said.

Last Thursday's arrests of Julie Ann Pesnell, 24, of Inglewood, and Kenneth Cutter, 22, of Los Angeles, came after people matching their descriptions committed two separate robberies on the same night, including one shotgun holdup of a man who had just driven into the driveway of his home, police said.

The distinctive couple--she is 5-foot-3, 100 pounds, and he is 6-foot-6, 220 pounds--were arrested quietly in a car outside a hamburger stand at the corner of Venice Boulevard and Sawtelle Avenue just before midnight on April 22, said Lt. Russ Moen, commander of detectives at the West L.A. station.

The car, a red Nissan Sentra, had been reported stolen in a carjacking a week before, he said.

Members of the special unit had been deployed along Sawtelle and briefed on the descriptions of the suspects, who were taped by a video camera during a convenience store robbery earlier in the week, Moen said.

Overtime pay for the squad, known as Special Problems Unit Criminal Apprehension Team (and pronounced spew-cat), came from West L.A.'s $30,000 slice of $100,000 from Braude, who sits as chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

A veteran of 28 years on the City Council, Braude announced the funding of police overtime for stations in his 11th District shortly before the April 20 elections, when he faced his first challengers in 12 years. He was easily reelected.

Virtually all the savings came from Braude's relatively low staffing of his City Hall office and two district offices, said Glenn Barr, a deputy. Braude has the second-smallest staff of any council member, he said.

Braude also has scrimped on interior decorating.

"We've had one carpet change in 16 years, the walls were painted three times and we put in one set of drapes," Barr said.

Although Braude returned earlier savings from his annual $600,000 budget to the city's general fund, the recent allocation came from extra money that has been set aside in a special account for six years. The shift to the LAPD's overtime account was approved unanimously by the City Council on April 6.

"These funds will allow our police captains to assign additional officers where the need is most acute, and to pay for them with overtime funds not previously available," Braude said at the time. "I can think of no more important area where these dollars could be spent than in providing for safer communities by giving our police more resources to do the job."

The $100,000 was divided according to how the population of Braude's district fits into the way the LAPD divides the city.

Brennan's West L.A. area extends from Beverly Hills to the beach and from Mulholland Drive to the Santa Monica Freeway.

A smaller chunk of Braude's district falls in the LAPD's Pacific Area, which was given $10,000 to help in its gang suppression program.

"It could be (used) anywhere, from some kind of community program, to extra patrol, to trying to catch taggers, to trying to suppress criminal activity like shootings," said Sgt. Buff Crossley, adjutant to the commander of the Pacific Area. "We haven't decided how to use it yet." The Pacific area covers much of the Westside south of the Santa Monica Freeway.

Braude's largess also includes $35,000 to help fight prostitution along Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys and $25,000 to help fight graffiti taggers in the West Valley.

Under recent redistricting, about 55% of the population in Braude's district now lies in the San Fernando Valley, Barr said.

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