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Council Decides Not to Reopen Alarm Debate

A challenge by some members is thwarted as they fail to get enough votes for a discussion.

August 02, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

A sharply divided Los Angeles City Council voted Friday against reopening the debate over the city's new burglar alarm policy, which allows two false alarms before police stop responding.

Saying the city cannot afford to have officers roll out to respond to false alarms, several council members tried to revisit a policy approved last week by the Police Commission, but were thwarted when they did not get the necessary 10 votes.

"I'm appalled," said Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who pleaded with his colleagues to reconsider the issue. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to agree" that police should be deployed where the crime is, "especially the violent crime."

But Villaraigosa and others were not even allowed to formally discuss the matter, because it was not on the council's agenda and they could not convince enough of their colleagues that it was an emergency issue.

"What emergency exists today? What new information exists today?" asked Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who favors allowing residents two false alarms.

The alarm issue has bounced between City Hall and police headquarters for months. In January, the Police Commission, at the urging of Chief William J. Bratton, voted to have officers stop responding to burglar alarms unless an alarm was verified as being a real emergency.

But the commission delayed implementing the policy after the decision brought an outcry from some council members, private alarm companies and a contingent of neighborhood councils.

During months of wrangling over the issue, council members created a task force that recommended giving homeowners three false alarms before police stopped coming to their door when the alarm went off. Then, earlier this month, Hahn proposed giving homeowners and businesses two false alarms each year; the commission approved that plan last week.

That set the stage for Friday's challenge. Villaraigosa, along with council members Martin Ludlow, Cindy Miscikowski, Ed Reyes and Jack Weiss, argued that new information in a story published Monday in The Times about deployment of police detectives provided a compelling reason to reopen the debate. The article found that homicide detectives in some parts of the city carry much heavier workloads than colleagues in other areas.

After that effort failed, several council members said they plan to revisit the issue of police deployment.

"There are people out there dying," Ludlow said. "We can't get to the bottom of that" until officers are deployed "in a way that makes sense."

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