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COMMUNITY NEWS: CENTRAL

LITTLE TOKYO : Citizens Help Police With Surveillance

July 04, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

From the rooftops of Little Tokyo, merchants and residents are keeping an eye out for vandals and other criminals.

The Police Department has launched its first volunteer surveillance effort in the Central Division by enlisting the help of Little Tokyo citizens to serve as patrol officers' eyes and ears. About a dozen Little Tokyo residents and merchants have so far volunteered.

Several nights a month, a couple of volunteers equip themselves with a radio provided by the Police Department and spend several hours on rooftops, in balconies and other vantage points. They call in police as they spot possible vandals, car burglars or other problems.

The volunteers are in no danger because they stay in the safety of the observation point, said Brian Kito, a local merchant involved in the effort. The volunteers are directed to avoid contact with the suspects. Their role is simply to provide police with information so the officers can make arrests.

The volunteer surveillance program has been in operation for more than a year in the San Fernando Valley and was deemed a success there. The Valley program is credited with more than 40 arrests.

Other police divisions have followed suit, using citizen surveillance to target graffiti taggers in certain areas.

In the Central Division, police Explorers and reserve officers have been used for surveillance for a few months. But Capt. Keith Bushey, who had experience with volunteer surveillance teams in the Northeast Division, wanted to get citizens involved too, said Officer Gwen Grimes, a police spokeswoman.

And for Little Tokyo merchants, the program has been a perfect addition to their other crime-fighting effort--a citizen foot patrol of merchants who keep their eyes open for crime and chase away panhandlers.

The Greater Little Tokyo Anti-Crime Assn., which was organized by local merchants, is looking into purchasing its own radio or walkie-talkie set to be used by the surveillance and foot patrol volunteers.

Grimes said Central Division police are also working with Chinatown citizens to begin a volunteer surveillance program there.

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