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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : Public Safety : Can we agree on down-to-earth steps to ensure that community-based policing actually will work? : Solutions : Bring Cops Home, Arm Them With Better Technology

July 17, 1994

FROM: Allan Parachini, public affairs director for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.

When Parachini set out to map where Los Angeles police live, he expected to prove the commonly held belief that many of them live far from the neighborhoods they patrol. But even he was surprised at the percentages: More than four-fifths of members of the force live outside city limits.

"Everybody in this city knew that a majority of the cops didn't live here," he said. "But I have to say that when I got through with the calculator and saw 83.1%, I was surprised myself. I did the calculations again."

The report summarizing his findings outlined several possible solutions, including offering the enticement of low- and zero-interest mortgage loans to officers willing to move into the city. It recommends greater financial rewards--perhaps even bonuses--for those who move to high-crime areas.

Persuading officers to move to the city would make officers more aware of the needs and problems of the city, based on personal experience. And city residents would gain a more balanced view of law enforcement by having cops as neighbors.

Parachini believes that private lenders would respond to "jaw-boning by the mayor" and other politicians and community leaders, perhaps even agreeing to offer interest rate reductions without requiring any financial contribution from the city. Banks gain positive publicity by becoming lenders to the officers.


This in an innovative idea, but costs could be a big obstacle. A pioneer program of interest breaks for cops, started four years ago in Columbia, S.C., has drawn 13 officers--about 5% of that city's small force--into the city. There, the city subsidizes half the 4% loan and no down payment is required. Still, questions linger about whether such a program would work in larger, financially strapped cities like Los Angeles.

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