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Commentary | VOICES A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES

Neighborhood Watch Works

L.A. groups see community policing gains.

March 15, 2003|Page Miller | Page Miller was appointed by the Los Angeles Police Commission to the Blue Ribbon Committee to develop criteria for the selection of chief of police. She co-chairs Save Our SLOs with Sandy Munz. E-mail: saveourslos@hotmail.com.

The residents of Los Angeles have fought hard to bring community policing back to our city. We pushed to reinstate the "senior lead officer" (SLO) program, which designates key liaison officers who unite the community with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Mayor James K. Hahn, the Police Commission and the City Council supported the community's demand for SLOs and community policing by ordering the reinstatement of SLOs in February 2002. Last October, William Bratton, who is committed to community policing, was appointed police chief.

What can we civilians do now? Neighborhood Watch, a major component of community policing, gives each of us a sense of personal involvement and responsibility for our own safety in our own community. We need to encourage participation across the city.

Each of the LAPD's 18 divisions is different. Some Neighborhood Watch and Business Watch groups meet once a month. Others meet quarterly. Some SLOs send out monthly newsletters. Anyone with Internet access can read a crime update for their area by their respective SLO at www.lapdon line.org.

Meetings often include guest speakers from, for example, the canine unit, identity-theft detectives or SWAT. For more information, call your division and ask to speak to your senior lead officer.

There have been a few areas where Neighborhood Watch groups were referred to as "snitch clubs." It is incumbent upon the Neighborhood Watch members in those areas to enlighten their neighbors and encourage participation.

The LAPD also has an anti-terrorism tip line: (877) A-THREAT. However, protection without prejudice is a difficult path to walk. We are facing an increase in the assumption of guilt directed toward those of certain ethnic or religious affiliations. We need to make a better attempt to reach out to groups that have not had a visible presence at our meetings -- including the Muslim community.

Every division has its community policing success stories. Graffiti removal teams like Community Tagger Task Force in Van Nuys, Graffiti Busters and New Directions for Youth in North Hollywood and Homeboy Industries in Hollenbeck are working to minimize the gang problem. The Harbor Business Coalition in Harbor Division donated an LAPD drop-in center and two bicycles to their bike patrol, and more "citizen surveillance" teams are being activated. A Harbor Division resident volunteers his linguistic skills as an interpreter for those who speak certain Chinese dialects. City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo has appointed a "neighborhood prosecutor" for every division to work with officers on prosecutions.

Bratton is making positive changes. We look forward to more in the coming weeks.

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