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In South Los Angeles, a Call for Citizens Against Crime : Police: The neighborhood approach aims to improve overall quality of life.

March 28, 1994|MARK A. KROEKER | Deputy Chief Mark A. Kroeker is commanding officer of the LAPD's South Bureau, which runs roughly from the Santa Monica Freeway south to San Pedro, from La Brea on the west to the Harbor Freeway on the east.

As of this year, the LAPD's South Bureau--1,200 officers serving a population of 750,000 people--has aggressively moved to deepen its commitment to community policing. Our goals are to reduce crime, both the violent and property varieties, and also the fear of crime, which oppresses people in their daily lives; to improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods, and a willingness to work together and create a new level of trust between police and residents.

Community policing is more than anything an attitude, one that acknowledges that the residents, merchants and other "stakeholders" are the MIPs, the most important persons, in the equation. They are our customers.

Our most important response is to listen, and we will do this through new community police advisory boards, community meetings, feedback from elected and appointed officials, letters and phone calls that come to our police stations and community surveys. We will listen when it's pleasant to and when it's painful, to supporters and detractors. Some of our best advice may well come from the most unlikely sources.

The focus of this effort is at the neighborhood level. The adage "smaller is better" fits well in community policing because it speaks of small wins, incremental progress and visible results in neighborhood life, where things really matter.

The strategy we will employ is the problem-solving method, which assumes that a large measure of the grief is produced by fairly identifiable problems. Our search for the problems will no doubt lead us to neighborhood aggravations, visible drug use, graffiti and street prostitution. We will also analyze data such as our multiple-call location reports, and ask why we are constantly sending response cars to certain locations. Then we can begin solving the problems.

The community-based policing organization is based on volunteerism within our communities--a goodwill alliance of major proportions. This will take work, but we hope that the work will be shared by many. The community will be organized on a three-tiered basis, rather than the more traditional approach of a few good people who seem to do most of the work. The key persons are the residents, merchants and homeowners. They are at the top of the inverted-pyramid organization chart. Next is the block captain on each street, who will organize neighbors, residents or merchants, disseminate information and develop a neighborhood watch, business watch or apartment watch. The newest ingredient in this organization is the police-community representative, another community volunteer who will organize block captains and coordinate within the department's census-tract reporting districts.

For the department, we have taken 30 senior officers off routine response and reassigned them to recruiting this volunteer organization, cultivating it, listening to it and coordinating, along with the neighborhood stakeholders, creative and strategic problem-solving activities.

We will measure our success not only by looking at statistics, but also by surveying the level of community fear, which we hope to lower. And, we will measure the visible impact on the quality of neighborhood life. We want to measure our trust and respect by the number and nature of commendations for police officers as well as complaints against them. Both the city of Los Angeles and its Police Department have gone through an era of unprecedented negativity. Now it's time for "positivity," and in large doses. We have been locked in the age of condemnation. Now let's have some sincere and open commendation for our great city, for its neighborhoods and for the men and women who police those neighborhoods.

What can you do?

Contact your local police station. Express your willingness to get involved, even in a minor way. There is a place for you. You are important to us.

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