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Police Presence in City Parks Grows

Safety: Hahn touts the opening of 62 LAPD stop-in centers, through which officers aim to curb crime and improve community relations.


The message coming out of a Friday gathering of Los Angeles officials, community leaders and residents was unmistakably clear: Take back city parks from gangs and drug dealers and return them to neighborhood children and their families.

Mayor James K. Hahn, backed by about 50 supporters at the Delano Park Recreation Center in Van Nuys, announced the opening of LAPD stop-in centers at 62 city parks, where criminal activity has risen in recent months.

"Too many of our parks are being used by gang members and drug dealers, and not the families and children for whom they were built," Hahn said. "L.A.'s ability to provide safe parks--free from gangs, crime and drugs--is an important measure of the health of our neighborhoods, and the overall well-being of our city."

At Hahn's request, a joint committee of the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Commission and the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission came up with the concept of stop-in centers to establish a police presence at 62 of 300 city parks, including Delano Park, where brazen criminals and mothers pushing baby strollers battle for turf.

Police officers on routine patrol will use the stop-in centers to write reports, make phone calls and chat with residents about their concerns, Interim L.A. Police Chief Martin Pomeroy said. The program will not require hiring new officers, he said.

Community leaders such as Candido Marez of Van Nuys, who helped launch a youth soccer program involving about 2,000 children in Delano Park, welcomed the stop-in center.

"A few months ago, this park was infested with gangs," he said. "Now, with the help of the LAPD, we are able to have programs here."

Delano Park Recreation Director Ramon Cerrillos said occasional and unexpected visits by police will help curb crime and improve community relations.

"The police presence alone, with the squad car out front and the officer inside, deters people from wrongdoing or just loitering," he said. "The stop-in center pulls the police officer off the street and into the [recreation center], where he is more approachable and can answer questions from the community."

Andria Mickens of Van Nuys, who learned about the police stop-in center Friday while registering her daughters for summer camp, said the move was reassuring. "It makes me feel comfortable knowing that there will be someone else watching out," she said.

The stop-in centers are one of several park-safety initiatives implemented this year by the Los Angeles Police Commission. Others include improvements in the oversight of patrols, mounted patrols, bicycle officers, crime-suppression units and "safe-house" placards at designated park buildings.

Information about which parks will have stop-in centers may be obtained by calling the Department of Recreation and Parks at (888) 527-2757.

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