Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan announced a $15-million private fund-raising campaign Tuesday to begin computerizing the antiquated Los Angeles Police Department, which still relies on paperwork to keep track of its tens of thousands of criminal cases.
Police Chief Willie L. Williams said that installing a computer network at the department would free officers--who now spend up to 40% of their time filling out forms--to fight crime.
Even Williams, who works on a borrowed computer, must call the LAPD's 18 geographic divisions to determine staffing levels during emergencies because no central computer links the department's outposts.
In announcing the new Mayor's Alliance for a Safer L.A., Riordan joined Williams and other officials at the Newton Division station--built in 1925--where they toured the decaying offices.
"Take a minute and look around this room," Riordan said in the roll-call room. "This equipment is not like a good wine which improves with age. Just ask yourself if you could run your business with these tools."
In another effort to bring money to the LAPD, Riordan said he intends to fly to Washington this morning to lobby Congress to approve President Clinton's crime bill, which would fund 100,000 additional police officers nationwide, ban assault weapons and support various crime prevention efforts.
But even if the federal funds are approved, Riordan said the fundraising effort is essential.
The fund-raising alliance, headed by Bruce Karatz, chairman of Kaufman & Broad Home Corp., is made up of 20 business executives. They include the top officials of Ticketmaster, Arco, Food-4-Less, MCA Inc. and In-N-Out Burger.
In response to a question, Riordan said he intends to donate to the fund himself, and Karatz said all alliance members have agreed to lend financial support to the effort through donations and fund raising.
"We're asking everyone in the city to get involved in this campaign," Karatz said.
City Council members learned of the private fund-raising effort recently. It will be presented to the council's Public Safety Committee on Monday for a review.
By the end of 1994, the alliance will seek $15 million in private donations--enough to make a significant impact on the department's immediate needs, officials said, but far below the estimated $100 million needed for a complete computerization of the department.
"It's very ambitious . . . (but) I think it's doable," Karatz said.
Earlier this summer, Councilwoman Laura Chick called for a multimillion-dollar retrofitting of the LAPD that would go beyond the mayor's fund-raising effort. Saying the LAPD is still in the "horse-and-buggy" era, Chick called for a summit meeting to prepare a comprehensive modernization plan for the department.
"This won't solve all our woes, but it's a very important first step," Chick said of the mayor's effort. "We need a top-to-bottom modernization of the LAPD and the first step is a high-tech computer network. That's what they are looking to provide."
Most of the $15 million that the mayor's group intends to raise will pay for 1,700 computer workstations and other related technology, which Compaq has offered at reduced prices to the city.
The new technology will save the LAPD more than 640,000 hours annually, officials said, which they said is equivalent to 368 officers.
"If we had computers, it would help--absolutely," said Eric Campos, a homicide detective in the Newton Division, the city's third-busiest area for violent crime.
But the computer equipment will only be a first step. The LAPD would also have to add numerous computer experts to its staff and eventually tie all the computerized police stations together into a single network at Parker Center, officials said.
Until a toll-free hot line is set up, officials said pledges can be made at (310) 443-8444.