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Community Policing Unit Finds New Home : Law enforcement: Police and volunteers help turn a derelict mobile home into a headquarters for the Devonshire Division group.

September 02, 1993|JULIO MORAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What was once a gutted, graffiti-marred mobile home packed several feet high with trash was officially dedicated Wednesday as the new home of the LAPD Devonshire Division's community-based policing unit.

The new headquarters, made possible by an unusual conjunction of mostly private donations and public money, brings together the entire community police unit in one place for the first time.

"This represents an amazing collection of investment and effort on the part of all types of people," said Deputy Police Chief Mark A. Kroeker. "It happened because people wanted it to happen."

Community-based policing, which strives for neighborhood collaboration toward solving local crime problems, has been in effect in the Valley for nearly two years. But the elements of all units at other divisions, such as Foothill and North Hollywood, are scattered throughout the police stations, often making it difficult to coordinate efforts in a cohesive manner, Kroeker said.

Nearly all the other stations lack the space inside or outside to accommodate additional desks or phones, Kroeker said.

Devonshire was able to get its facility because it had the space on its parking lot, and the community and political muscle.

A main player in obtaining the 66-foot-long, 15-foot-wide trailer, which was donated by the Los Angeles Housing Authority, was City Councilman Hal Bernson, whose office donated $10,000 toward the cost of moving and renovating the dilapidated mobile home.

Residents and police officers pitched in by volunteering hours of labor, while local businesses donated equipment, such as computers, office furniture and air conditioners. Without the community contributions, the project would have cost more than $100,000, a spokesman for Bernson said.

The seven sworn officers and six community volunteers actually have been working out of the trailer since it was moved onto the parking lot behind the Devonshire Division station at Etiwanda Avenue and Devonshire Street in Northridge nearly a year ago.

But the final touches, including a fresh coat of paint and installation of a sign, were not completed until recently.

"You should have seen it when they first brought it here," said Devonshire Division Capt. Vance Proctor. "It had holes in the floor, holes in the roof, there was graffiti all over it. But we just started at the bottom, and worked our way to the top to get it in the shape it is now."

The trailer, which Proctor prefers to call the "Community Policing Center," houses 16 desks and a conference room. Before the center, the police officers and community volunteers shared one desk and a lone phone in a corner of the police station.

"It was frustrating to have all these community volunteers willing to give their time and then not even have a chair for them," Proctor said.

Kim Cochran, a five-year community volunteer from Winnetka, said that having everyone in one place with individual desks and phones has made her job easier.

"We can have all the volunteers and the police officers together to share ideas," said Cochran. "We now have a place where we can do our paperwork and make our calls. It was very difficult with everyone sharing one phone and one desk."

Cochran said the center has helped her increase the number of her Neighborhood Watch volunteers from 30 to 1,500 in about a year.

Kroeker said that he hopes to be able to provide space and equipment for community policing units at the Foothill and North Hollywood divisions, which are undergoing renovations. But he said that ideally, community policing centers should be scattered throughout the entire city, not just at police stations.

"They should be spread out throughout the community attached to neighborhoods," Kroeker said. "A place where community volunteers could work alongside police officers."

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