A survey intended to identify public safety concerns among West Hollywood residents has found that slightly more than half of residents see crime as a “serious” problem, but that crime ranks below other issues such as traffic and congestion, parking and a lack of affordable housing. The survey also found that local residents give local sheriff’s deputies an overall positive review.
The survey was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3). It is part of a study proposed last summer by Mayor Lauren Meister and City Councilmember John D’Amico to gauge residents’ concerns about crime and how it is dealt with and to ensure that the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department provides public safety services ” in the most efficient and effective way possible.” West Hollywood contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for public safety services, spending about $19 million a year.
The study also includes a look at the Block by Block Ambassador program for which the city contracts with SMS Holdings to provide public safety staff on bicycles around Santa Monica Boulevard who alert Sheriff’s deputies to crimes and advise local residents on public safety issues.
The FM3 consultants also conducted focus groups, did an online survey and held an open meeting attended by local residents. And they interviewed local “stakeholders” (business owners, neighborhood association leaders, etc.) But the random telephone survey is the most accurate assessment of residents’ concerns, although, because it was based on a list of registered voters, FM3 notes that it might under-represent young people, who are a major part of the city’s nightlife community, and those who have recently moved to West Hollywood. For example, while those between the ages of 20 and 24 made up 9% of the city’s estimated population, that age group made up only 1% of registered voters as of 2015. The gap is even bigger for those ages 25 to 44, who make up an estimated 56% of the city’s population but only 22% of registered voters. The survey also indicates a difference between the perception of local residents and data gathered by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which in a 2015 report said West Hollywood had the highest rate of serious and property crime of the 23 areas it serves. Some of those crimes, however, may have been inflicted on tourists and visitors, who would not have been included in the survey.
Of the 49% of respondents who saw crime as a major concern, 15% ranked is as a “very serious” concern and 34% as a “somewhat serious” problem). By contrast:
— 87% of residents surveyed were concerned about traffic and congestion, with 51% seeing it as a “very serious” problem and 36% as a “somewhat serious problem.”
— 79% of residents were concerned about parking, with 43% seeing lack of parking as very serious and 36% as somewhat serious.
— 73% of residents were concerned about a lack of affordable housing, with 40% seeing it as very serious and 33% as somewhat serious.
— 68% of residents were concerned about the drought, with 38% seeing it as very serious and 30% as somewhat serious.
— 68% of residents were concerned about homelessness, with 30% seeing it as very serious and 38% as somewhat serious.
— 54% of residents were concerned about growth and development, with 28% seeing it as very serious and 26% as somewhat serious.
When the FM3 consultants asked residents what their crime issues concerned them, they found there was no overwhelming concern about a particular public safety issue. However different types of incidents, all involving cars, are the most serious public safety issue in West Hollywood to more than a quarter of respondents (27%). That includes traffic (ranked as the top public safety concern by 12% of respondents), pedestrian/crosswalk safety (11%), and texting/speeding/drunk drivers (4%) .
When residents were presented with a list of specific crime and public safety issues, homelessness ranked first among concerns, with 74% seeing it as a serious issue (42% ranked it as “somewhat serious” and 32% as “very serious.”) Responses to other issues were:
— Unsafe driving or speeding: 72% as serious (33% very serious and 39% somewhat serious)
— Pedestrian safety: 68% as serious (38% very serious, 30% somewhat serious)
— Drug use or abuse: 57% as serious (27% very serious, 30% somewhat serious)
— Bike safety: 63% as serious (25% very serious, 28% somewhat serious)
— Auto theft or break-ins: 56% as serious (23% very serious, 33% somewhat serious)
— Robbery or mugging: 52% as serious (21% very serious, 31% somewhat serious)
— Street vagrancy: 57% as serious (20% very serious, 37% somewhat serious)
— Home break-ins or burglaries: 51% as serious (19% very serious, 32% somewhat serious)
— Public drunkenness: 47% as serious (14% very serious, 33% serious)
— Neighborhood noise: 42% as serious (16% very serious, 26% serious)
— Hate crimes: 41% as serious (16% very serious, 25% serious)
— Assault of LGBT people: 38% as serious (16% very serious, 22% serious)
— Sexual assault or rape: 32% as serious (10% very serious, 22% serious)
— Inadequate police presence: 31% (9% very serious, 22% serious)
— Graffiti: 27% (8% very serious, 19% serious)
— Gangs: 19% (6% very serious, 13% serious)
The survey found different levels of concern about specific issues related to where the respondents lived, their incomes and their sexual orientation. For example:
Eastside residents are more concerned about homelessness (81% see it as a serious issue) than those in the Center City(73%) and on the Westside (68%). Eastsiders also are more likely to see street vagrancy as an issue (65% compared to 57% in Center City and 50% on the Westside) and they also are more concerned about noise (55% compared to 36% in Center City and 39% on the Westside).
The study says Eastside residents are less likely to see hate crimes or assault of LGBT people as a major issue, which may be because of that area’s lower LGBT population. Gay people surveyed were more concerned about pedestrian safety (82% saw it as a serious issue) than were heterosexual respondents (63%) or the small number of lesbian respondents (58%). Gay respondents also were more likely to see muggings as a serious issue (69%) than were heterosexuals (46%) or lesbians (45%. And they were more concerned about hate crimes (60%) and assaults based on one’s gay orientation (66%).
Eastside residents were slightly less likely to feel “very” safe in their neighborhoods during the day than those in the Center City or on the Westside. Wealthier and gay and lesbian respondents were more likely to say they felt very safe. And while 96% of those surveyed said they felt safe in their neighborhoods during the day, only 80% said they felt safe at night. One if four respondents said they felt unsafe at night in a nearby park.
Westside residents were more concerned about pedestrian safety than those in other parts of the city, which may be a reflection of the publicity about the death in 2014 of Clinton Bounds https://wehoonline.com/2014/08/23/man-killed-crosswalk-santa-monica-boulevard/ and the large amount of pedestrian traffic in WeHo’s Boystown nightlife district. Pedestrian safety was listed as a most serious problem by 17% of those on the Westside, and by 20% of those who identified as gay or lesbian. By contrast, it was listed as a most serious issue by only 11% of those in the Center City area and 6% of those on the Eastside.
Eighteen percent of Eastside residents listed traffic and traffic accidents as the most serious public safety issue, compared to 11 percent of those surveyed on the Westside and 8% of those in the Center City area. That concern varied not only by geography but by income. Sixteen percent of those earning $100,000 or more mentioned traffic and traffic accidents as the most serious issue, compared with 10% of those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 and 5% of those earning less than $50,000.
When it came to perception of the sheriff’s station and its deputies, 77% of those surveyed by telephone gave deputies an excellent or good performance review. Thirteen percent rated their performance as “just fair.” Three percent rated the performance of deputies as poor and 8% were uncertain. One in four of those who gave good ratings to deputies cited their quick response times. However poor response times were cited by many of those who gave a negative review. Seventy-eight percent of respondents gave firefighters a positive rating. Eight-six percent of those surveyed by phone “trust the sheriff’s deputies in West Hollywood to protect their family. The survey reports that 53% trust them a “great deal.” When it comes to specifics about the performance of deputies:
— 81% say the deputies treat people professionally (of that, 63% say that statement “strongly applies”)
— 84% say the deputies enforce traffic laws
— 85% say the deputies are committed to helping West Hollywood residents
— 81% say deputies treat people professionally regardless of gender
— 77% say deputies treat people professionally regardless of age
— 71% say deputies treat people professionally regardless of race or ethnicity
— 77% say deputies respond quickly to emergency calls
— 45% say deputies are effective in curbing local crime
— 43% say deputies make community relations a priority
— 42% say deputies are proactive in preventing crime.
When asked what the city could do to improve public safety, 26% of respondents recommended an increased presence of deputies, who generally patrol the city in cars rather than on their feet. Ten percent said the city needs to provide services for homeless people, 9% recommended better communication and education about public safety and 7% recommended more efforts at pedestrian safety.
The survey found that residents of the Eastside were less likely to believe that deputies respond quickly to calls, Only 44% said a quick response “strongly applies” compared to 53% of those in Center City and 56% of those on the Westside. Only 41% of Eastside residents say they strongly agree that deputies are effective in curbing local crime. That compares with 52% of those on the Westside and 42% of those in the Center City. Eastside respondents were also less likely to say that deputies treat people professionally regardless of sexual orientation, with only 56% strongly agreeing to that compared to 65% on the Westside and 66% in Center City.
The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station is located on the city’s Westside at the southeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente. Recently, the Sheriff’s Station has increased foot patrols on the Eastside and is planning to launch van or mobile police unit that will serve as a contact point for Eastside residents.
Results of the survey will be presented to the West Hollywood City Council at its meeting tonight. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard.