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DOWNTOWN : Cleanup Sweeps Up Crime, Group Says

March 13, 1994|IRIS YOKOI

Property owners in the garment and flower districts say a pilot program that hires the homeless to clean and help patrol the streets has been a success in sprucing up the area and reducing crime.

Organizers hope the program's success will persuade more property owners to contribute money to keep the program afloat.

The newly formed Downtown Property Owners Assn. initiated the Clean and Safe program in August in the hope that by cleaning up the area and providing a more visible presence, it could improve the area's image, promote safer streets, revive the neighborhood and prevent flight of businesses.

The program has employed 43 former or currently homeless people to pick up litter, paint over graffiti and steam-clean sidewalks in a 10-block area bounded by 7th, 12th, San Julian and Main streets.

Clean and Safe organizers also hired their own bicycle patrol team by contracting security guards through Wells Fargo Guard Service to cycle daily through the streets and help the Los Angeles Police Department officers by reporting crimes. The 10 uniformed security guards are equipped with radios to communicate directly with police.

Police Sgt. Robert Villarino credited Clean and Safe and other similar improvement programs initiated by local organizations for a marked drop in Downtown crime.

Overall crime decreased 21% from Jan. 1 to Feb. 7 compared with the same period last year, Villarino said. The number of robberies dropped by 18% last month, compared with last year, while auto thefts dropped 49%, he said.

One area with room for improvement is funding, said Marianne Giblin, associate director of the Downtown Property Owners Assn., which formed last May. Of the organization's 250 Eastside members, only about 65% donated money to the Clean and Safe program, Giblin said. Their $105,000 in contributions funded the program for six months.

The city Community Redevelopment Agency contributed $25,000, and City Council members Rita Walters and Richard Alatorre found funds to provide $25,000 each. But that $75,000 in city donations has been used, Giblin said.

The association hopes to form an assessment district in which each property owner would pay a mandatory assessment toward public-improvement projects. The association and Chrysalis homeless assistance agency, which hired the workers, are seeking local and federal grants, Giblin said.

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