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Shoring Up a Neighborhood

March 05, 2000

Drive through the 10-block Winnetka neighborhood recently targeted by the Los Angeles Citywide Nuisance Abatement Program and you'll see tidy single-family homes or condominiums on tree-lined streets. That's what makes this project, the program's third in the San Fernando Valley, unique. It is a rare--and welcome--effort at intervention and prevention, at trying to stop a problem before it spills over into a stable neighborhood.

The Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Division recommended the neighborhood because of increasing complaints of narcotics and gang activity in a two-block cluster of rundown apartment buildings. Combining resources from the LAPD, the city attorney's office and the building, safety and planning departments, the program emphasizes that fighting crime is not just a matter of arresting someone but of addressing long-term problems like derelict buildings where gangs thrive.

A community organizer will teach residents how to tap city services, from reporting crimes to calling the right department to pick up abandoned couches. Using building code violations as leverage, the task force will work with apartment owners to improve security, lighting and parking, train managers and work with other apartment owners on common problems.

As more people move to the Valley, apartments and denser housing will by necessity grow up alongside smaller homes. Initiatives like this one will be a model for the rest of the city on how to get along.

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