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VAN NUYS : Crime Fighter Undaunted by Troubled Times

March 09, 1994|KAY HWANGBO

Philip (Flip) Smith says he has no regrets.

He sees his two grown children at least once a week, regularly attends a step aerobics class and has a penchant for Hawaiian shirts.

His business is not flashy--he owns a tire shop on Sepulveda Boulevard--but Smith considers himself a success. A founder of the Sepulveda Boulevard Business Watch, he has held on in a troubled neighborhood through years of decline.

And police say that among business leaders in the San Fernando Valley, Smith and his organization have done more than most to fight crime and urban decay.

On a recent Friday afternoon, looking relaxed in a pink, navy blue and beige Hawaiian shirt, beige linen-look pants and sensible brown shoes, Smith, who has been married for 27 years, talked about the business and community leadership roles he has held since 1982.

"Whenever I see a problem, I think about the solution," said Smith, who has lived in Van Nuys for 43 of his 47 years. "A lot of people try to point fingers or they blame someone else for not doing anything, but you can just roll up your sleeves and take action."

Since the Business Watch was established in October, 1992, it has tackled crime, prostitution and panhandling in the area.

Smith has persuaded businesses to improve lighting and security and has been responsible for a move to reprogram pay telephones on the street so that they cannot take incoming calls. The group has also distributed cards with information about homeless services for passers-by to give to panhandlers in lieu of money.

Over the past dozen years, Smith has served as president of the Greater Van Nuys Area Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Van Nuys and the Mid-Valley YMCA, he is current president of the Mid-Valley Police Council, and is a member of the state Small Business Commission.

"He definitely supports the needs of the community and tries to get those needs across to business owners so they have a better understanding of communities and can better service the community's needs," said Romana Catton, who with Smith co-chairs a new organization--the Unified Community Watch Group--formed to fight prostitution and other crimes.

Smith said he works with businesses on Sepulveda Boulevard because he sees that as the best way for him to get involved in the community and help people. He helped establish the Business Watch after the Van Nuys Chamber of Commerce invited him to work on a revitalization plan for Sepulveda Boulevard.

And, he said, it is time for businesses and residents to work together.

"The Chamber of Commerce has always meant businesses helping businesses," he said.

"They need to say it's also about businesses helping homeowners. They need to work together."

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