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Valley Perspective

Healing After Deadly Shootout

March 23, 1997

After the terror, the mess remains. Last month's deadly shootout between Los Angeles police and a pair of heavily armed bank robbers in North Hollywood ended fairly quickly--a brief but terrifying day that ended with the thieves dead, 11 officers and six civilians injured.

But three weeks later, the physical reminders of that February Friday linger. The thousands of rounds fired by the robbers and police shattered windows, ruined signs, pierced walls and shredded cars. To help fix the damage and heal the neighborhood, the City Council has approved plans to expedite the claims process residents use to get compensated for repairs.

A few hundred dollars here and there to patch a wall or fix a window is small change to the city, but can make a big difference to a family with two kids and a mortgage. Putting the neighborhood back on track quickly is worth the relatively minor costs to the public.

For instance, the largest claim submitted to the city so far is for $9,200 to replace a car shot up in the gunfight. Some are smaller, such as the $82 to fix a bullet hole in a window. Most fall in between--$1,500 to fix an apartment building riddled with holes or $2,500 to replace a shattered window. Then there is the special case of Walter and Mary Milosevich, the elderly couple whose backyard wall and shed were flattened by a police battering ram on live television in a fruitless search for additional suspects.

Their neighborhood turned upside down on the deadly whim of two crooks, the Miloseviches and their neighbors deserve public help in making repairs. But the residents have a responsibility not to treat the process as a home improvement gravy train. An old fence post splintered by bullets doesn't require replacing the entire fence. Nor should a nick in the stucco earn a homeowner a new paint job.

Patching the holes and sealing the cracks are the first steps toward returning the neighborhood to normal. The quicker the better. But homeowners and city officials need to work together to make sure that the recovery is quick, thorough and fair.

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