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More Police Will Patrol Areas Near L.A. Schools : Safety: The collaborative effort by law enforcement agencies and MTA aims to deter crime around district campuses before and after classes.

September 05, 1993|DIANE SEO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When most Los Angeles students head back to classes this week, they will be greeted by more police officers on their way to and from school.

The increased presence of officers is a result of a collaborative effort among the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority police and other law enforcement agencies to deter crime around district campuses before and after school.

School District Supt. Sid Thompson and several other top district administrators met with MTA police Lt. Tim Murphy, Assistant Police Chief Bernard Parks and other division commanders late last month to devise ways the district and police agencies can increase student safety, particularly in areas near schools where crime is commonplace.

District officials also plan to meet with officials from other law enforcement agencies within the school district's boundaries to discuss adding more officers. Neither the Police Department nor the MTA specified how many additional officers will be deployed to school areas.

"In light of our limited resources, each area commander will deploy as many officers as possible to the problem areas around schools," said Steve Carey, a Police Department representative. "Unfortunately, there is a (crime) problem out there, but we want parents and kids to know that the school district, the LAPD and the MTA are doing something about it."

Police officials also plan to meet with principals from the four regions of the school district to improve communication between schools and their local police.

"I think we've all recognized that this is a community problem, not just a school problem," said school board member Victoria Castro, who heads the board's new School Safety Committee. "We all want to help kids get to and from school safely."

To help police target problem areas, the MTA provided a list of 125 bus stops where gang members often congregate or where crime often occurs. Los Angeles police officials say they will try to increase patrols in these areas as well as other known trouble spots, which are spread throughout the school district.

One of those trouble spots is in Westlake, where on a recent afternoon, a homeless man wielding a knife chased a 7-year-old boy on his way home from Esperanza Elementary School.

In the same neighborhood on a different occasion, a man fleeing from police dropped narcotics in the baby stroller of a woman who was on her way to pick up her child at the same school.

Principal Rowena Lagrosa said incidents like these are already becoming common at the district's newest elementary school, which opened in July.

"You see prostitutes around here, and I saw someone smoking crack cocaine in that alley after school," said Lagrosa, pointing toward an alley adjacent to the school. "These children don't deserve to be exposed to these things."

While picking up his 5-year-old son from the school, Antonio Escobar shared his woes about the neighborhood.

"You can't walk on the sidewalks around here because of the homeless people, so you have to walk on the street where cars often make drug stops," he said. "I don't know if more police is going to help because the police now see the drug dealing, but they don't do much."

But Murphy of the MTA said the added security and closer ties between the district and police agencies should make a difference.

"There's all kinds of problems out there, and this will facilitate communication between kids, teachers, principals and law enforcement agencies," he said. "I consider any addition of . . . patrol officers a godsend."

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