YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Give Valley a New Police Division, Alarcon Urges : LAPD: Councilman will introduce motion to redraw boundaries to create sixth territory in east central area.


Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon said Tuesday he will introduce legislation today to create a new LAPD division with headquarters in a high-crime area of the central San Fernando Valley, hoping President Clinton's crime law can help pay for it.

Alarcon said Tuesday his motion will ask the Los Angeles Police Department to analyze the creation of what he named the "Mid-Valley East Division" by redrawing the boundaries of three of the Valley's five police divisions to add a sixth.

The department's analysis would be sent to the Public Safety Commission to review.

The new division would cover the communities of North Hills east of the San Diego Freeway, all of Panorama City, Mission Hills west of the Golden State Freeway, and Arleta west of the Golden State Freeway.

"This area historically has a high rate of crime," said Alarcon, who represents portions of the area the division would cover.

"This is an opportunity for us to see if some of the (new, federal) crime bill can cover some of the cost of making this transition to a new station."

Although Alarcon did not specify where exactly the new station would be located, the Mid-Valley East Division would be created by redrawing the boundaries of the Foothill, Devonshire and Van Nuys divisions. There are currently 18 police divisions in the LAPD, including the five in the San Fernando Valley.

The LAPD is already considering the addition of a new division at an unspecified location in the Valley, as part of its plan to realign existing police divisions more along community boundaries.

The LAPD plan, which police said could go into effect Jan. 1, would also increase the number of patrol cars in the Valley, according to Capt. Bruce Hagerty, a department spokesman. The Van Nuys Division would get three more cars, while the Foothill, North Hollywood and West Valley divisions would get one more car each, Hagerty said.

But Alarcon said the realignment proposal does too little to fight crime in the communities that would be served by his Mid-Valley East Division.

"These communities are serviced on the borders of Foothill Division, Devonshire Division and Van Nuys Division," Alarcon said. "I believe they could be better served if it was more of a centralized area."

Alarcon's move was hailed Tuesday by the commander of the Van Nuys Division, Capt. James McMurray, and at least one neighborhood association.

"I think (a sixth division) would improve the service in those areas," McMurray said. "As traffic and density have increased, so have our response times to some of those areas."

According to McMurray, a sixth division would be created by reassigning patrol officers from the existing divisions to the same geographic area in the new division. Service to residents in the existing divisions would not be affected, he said.

"If a new division takes up one-fifth of Van Nuys, then they would take one-fifth of the officers in our division," said McMurray. "I'd lose corresponding workload, as well as people."

Although the relocation of patrol officers from an existing division to a new one would cost nothing, McMurray said the LAPD would have to pay the cost of building a new station and staffing it with clerks, watch commanders and other support personnel.

Alarcon hopes some of those funds can come from the crime bill signed into law by Clinton last month. The anti-crime package sets aside $8.8 billion for hiring new police--as many as 100,000 new officers during the next six years, the bill's supporters have said.

Los Angeles County already received $4.8 million earlier this month to hire 52 new officers in the first wave of grants under the bill.

According to Alarcon, the two communities who most exemplify the need for a new police station are North Hills west of the San Diego Freeway and Blythe Street, a notorious strip of gang activity in Panorama City.

"What happens is North Hills and Blythe Street are lumped into two divisions," Alarcon said. "It really doesn't put the proper statistics on the number of crimes in those areas. When you lump North Hills into the rest of Devonshire Division, you make it appear that there isn't a big problem there. In Van Nuys Division, the same concept applies in Blythe Street."

Harry Coleman, president of the North Hills Community Coordinating Council, agreed. Calls for help from North Hills now go to the Devonshire Division station in Northridge.

"If we could get a police division that was concentrated near the blighted areas of North Hills, Panorama City and Van Nuys, it would solve a lot of problems," Coleman said.

Los Angeles Times Articles