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CHINATOWN : Safety Is Goal of Citizen Patrol

July 10, 1994|TOMMY LI

In an effort to change the perception of Chinatown as a high-crime area, a community group is seeking volunteers to form a citizens safety patrol.

Members of the Chinatown Public Safety Assn., which houses a Police Department substation at its North Hill Street building, want the patrol program to assist the six officers who are regularly assigned to cover Chinatown.

"We do have a lot of robberies, purse snatchings," said Bonnie Louie, the association's office manager. "I guess that's what's given us a bad image.

"The police can't do it all, (but) if we have people out there who are the eyes and ears of the LAPD, that alone will help deter crime."

Association members envision a program similar to that of Little Tokyo's Public Safety Patrol. A band of uniformed volunteers would walk Chinatown's streets on day and evening shifts with flashlights, walkie-talkies and a mobile phone to make 911 calls. The group is also looking for donations to help pay for equipment.

The group plans to meet with the Greater Little Tokyo Anti-Crime Assn., which runs its citizens patrol, Louie said, and "go on one of their walk-alongs and learn from them."

Officer Marie Tafoya said one advantage of a safety program is visibility in the community, pointing to the success of the Little Tokyo citizens patrol: "It has been very effective in reducing some of the crime in the area. A lot of the transients are used to seeing these people walk the area and they don't camp out because they are asked to leave."

The police will also offer volunteers training on identifying suspicious behavior, she said.

Louie believes that local crimes are underreported because of language and cultural reasons. Of the six officers assigned to the Chinatown substation, only one can speak Chinese and the safety association's staff members are not trained to take crime reports.

Non-English-speaking crime victims often don't bother finding a translator to report an incident or will keep the problem to themselves, she said.

But such attitudes could change by having more Asians watching out for crime, Louie said.

Volunteers do not have to be bilingual. Organizers hope to start the patrol by August.

Information: (213) 621-2344.

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