As crime in Los Angeles has dropped from the frightening levels of the 1990s to the astonishingly low rates of the last decade, pressure from residents and leaders to spend more money on law enforcement has turned into pressure to instead spend less, especially when so many other city services have been cut to accommodate shrinking budgets. But a well-trained police department with enough officers and expertise to respond rapidly to trouble isn't simply a previous era's priority. It is a perpetual need.
Tuesday night's rampage in Hollywood, which may have been incited and organized through social media, is a reminder that police need sufficient resources to keep pace with technologies and social movements that can undermine public safety, and to respond in force to more than a single spot within the city at any given time.
Police speculated that a group of teenagers communicating through Twitter targeted the entertainment and tourist district for an evening of lawlessness in part because they knew a large number of officers would be deployed elsewhere — in the Crenshaw district, where on previous nights peaceful protests against the acquittal in Florida of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin were interrupted by violence. As many as 40 or 50 teenagers converged on Hollywood, where they knocked down pedestrians and in some cases took their cellphones, watches and other items. No serious injuries were reported, but the episode was not merely an irritating romp by teenagers with too much time on their hands. There were robberies and assaults.