West Hollywood brands itself as a “safe place to live, work and play,” but exactly how safe that is depends on what part of the city one is living, working or playing in.
That’s one conclusion from an examination of a report by the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station that shows the city’s “West District” accounted for 48% of serious crimes in the last half of 2017. The West District is that area from La Cienega Boulevard west to Doheny and the city’s border with Beverly Hills.
From July through December 2017, the West District experienced a 14% increase in serious crimes (also known as Part 1 crimes) over the same period in 2016. Big increases occurred in vehicle burglaries (132 incidents, up 91%) and grand theft (theft of property worth more than $950, with 88 incidents for an increase of 31%). The report notes that thefts of mobile phones and wallets at nightclubs remain a problem, with the rising cost of phones and purses and wallets pushing them into the grand theft category. The West District did, however, see a 52% reduction in grand thefts from vehicles (16 incidents), a decline of 33% in armed robberies (eight incidents) , a decline of 31% in aggravated assaults (those committed with a weapon, 24 incidents) and a 23% decline in home burglaries (23 incidents).
The city’s East District, that area from Fairfax east to La Brea Avenue, saw a 9% increase in serious crimes in the last half of 2017. Residents of that area have been particularly vocal about what they see as a large increase in crime, calling out misbehavior by homeless people and the rare stabbing death earlier this month of an apparently homeless person on La Brea Avenue near Santa Monica Boulevard. The East District accounted for 30% of the city’s serious crimes. There was a major increase in armed robberies (nine incidents, up 125% from the previous year) and “other burglaries” (17 incidents, up 143%). “This area was hit hard with theft of bicycles located in sub parking garages, which in most instances falls under the Other Burglary classification,” the report says.
The City Center District, defined as the area between Fairfax Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard, saw only a 4% increase in serious crime. That area accounted for 22% of the city’s serious crimes in the last half of 2017. Vehicle burglaries were up 87% (73 incidents). However there were significant decreases in aggravated assaults (four incidents, down 80%) and petty theft (theft of property worth $950 or less – 54 incidents, down 24%).
Serious Crimes Overall Were Up 10%
Overall, serious crimes were up 10% in the last half of 2017 compared to the same period last year, with the 65% increase in vehicle burglaries the major factor in the jump. “Melrose Avenue/Robertson Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard in the West District were hit especially hard, along with the Gateway area in the East District,” says the report. “There were 267 vehicle burglaries citywide and 192 (72%) of those were window smashes. Smashing windows is the preferred method of entry for criminals to use when a vehicle is locked, because breaking a window will not set off the alarm system. Almost without exception, window smash vehicle burglaries occur when property is clearly visible inside the vehicle.”
Personally threatening crimes such as armed robbery, aggravated assault and rape were most common in the West District, the location of most of the city’s bars and nightclubs. There were 12 rapes (an increase of 71%), eight armed robberies and 24 aggravated assaults were reported in the West District in the last half of 2017. Three of the reported rapes involved West Hollywood residents but did not occur in West Hollywood.
In the East District, there were two rapes, nine armed robberies and 14 aggravated assaults. The City Center District reported one rape, six armed robberies and four aggravated assaults.
The report says 188 homeless people were arrested, with some of those arrests occurring multiple times with the same Individual. There were four hate crimes reported that were related to one’s sexual orientation, up slightly from the three in the last half of 2016, and one such crime related to one’s ethnicity.
In his presentation to the City Council on Monday night, Aloma said the 12 rapes reported to actually have occurred in West Hollywood were the result of “incidents started at local bars and nightclubs, and alcohol was involved in all of them… There was in each some sort of relationship between victim and suspect.”
The report also listed Part II crimes, which include incidents such as public drunkenness, vandalism, fraud and domestic assault. The last half of 2017 saw 72 reports of drunkenness, 158 violations of drug law, 150 incidents of vandalism and 148 non-aggravated assaults. Overall, there was a 7% decrease in such crimes city wide.
Questions from City Council Members
Members of the West Hollywood City Council last night raised questions on several public safety issues:
–-Opening a public safety facility on the city’s Eastside. City Councilmember Lauren Meister questioned the status of a proposal to open an office on the city’s Eastside to house public safety officers. City Manager Paul Arevalo said the city is looking into including a City Hall East annex near Plummer Park in next year’s budget. Public Safety Director Kristin Cook said she is concerned that stationing a deputy there would be less effective for public safety than having that deputy on the street. “I recommend taking that $250,000 and putting it in the field as opposed to having a deputy inside.”
—Eastside crime. Meister expressed concern about the number of armed robberies on the Eastside and asked whether crimes in and near the McDonalds restaurant on La Brea Avenue north of Santa Monica were related to the fact that it is open 24 hours a day.
Aloma said that the Sheriff’s Station has stepped up foot patrols on the city’s Eastside, focusing on the area around La Brea and Santa Monica avenues and east toward Fairfax Avenue. He also noted that statistics show that violent crime is down on the city’s Eastside, however incidents such as the recent knife murder on La Brea Avenue and last year’s attack on a man by a homeless man with a hatchet have created alarm among Eastside residents.
Regarding crime near the McDonald’s restaurant, Aloma said that 45 police reports have been taken at 1133 N. La Brea Ave., the address of the restaurant. But Aloma said those reports run the gamut from vehicle code violations to non-aggravated assaults to vandalism. Aloma said that in the restaurant and on its site there were four non-aggravated assaults reported along with incidents of petty theft, shoplifting, forgery, drug possession and a variety of different misdemeanors There were four vandalisms incidents reported. Jeff Aubel, the city’s head of code compliance, said that the restaurant will be required to have a security guard on premises from 2 to 6 a.m. when its license comes up for renewal in September.
—Murder on La Brea Avenue. Aloma said that the suspect arrested in the March xx stabbing death of an apparently homeless man apparently had been dating him. “They were both well known to the deputies and have been arrested numerous times over the past several years, they both had long criminal histories,” Aloma said. He said the L.A. County District Attorney has filed a murder charge against the suspected killer.
—Cause of Rapes. Horvath asked whether the rapes reported in West Hollywood had anything in common. Aloma said the rapes reported in West Hollywood were the result of “incidents started at local bars and nightclubs, and alcohol was involved in all of them… There was in each some sort of relationship between victim and suspect.”
—Number of Opioid Deaths and Alcohol and Drug Overdoses. Councilmember John D’Amico asked about the number of opioid deaths in West Hollywood, noting “there have been several notifications that young people died in our city in the last six months or year.” Councilmember Horvath asked about calls to paramedics regarding drug and alcohol abuse.
Assistant L.A. County Fire Chief Anthony Williams, who oversees the two county fire stations in WeHo, said there had been 14 calls for service from Fire Department paramedics in the last half of 2017 that were related to what are categorized as death from “unknown causes.” Williams said it’s not possible for a medic to definitively determine the cause of death, which is determined by the L.A. County Coroner / Medical Examiner. However he said that apparently four of those deaths were related to use of illegal narcotics. Williams said a large percentage of calls don’t state a reason for someone’s apparent illness and that calls for cardiac arrests and similar incidents may be related to drug or alcohol abuse.
The Sheriff Station’a portion of the public safety report listed 81 arrests for methamphetamine sales or possession, 11 for cocaine, eight for heroin, eight for marijuana, three for prescription drugs and one each for GHB and MDMA, all in the last half of 2017.
—Abandoned Buildings. Councilmember D’Amico noted that there are approximately 20 buildings empty buildings in the city that homeless people appear to be staying in and asked what the Sheriff’s Station can do about that. Capt. Aloma said deputies do respond to notifications that people might be living in an abandoned building. But he said a quick response to examine the building doesn’t necessarily result in a quick remove of the people in the building. Because of the possibility that the deputy will be attacked, he or she has to work with fellow deputies to plan a way to enter the property. Mayor John Heilman noted that the city is looking into ways to speed up the demolition of empty buildings on property where a new development already has been approved.
—Gemmel Moore death. Councilmember D’Amico asked about the status off the Sheriff’s Department investigation into the drug-related death on July 27, 2017, of Gemmel Moore, a young African-American escort, in the Laurel Avenue apartment of Ed Buck, a 64-year-old white man known for his financial support for Democratic election campaigns. Capt. Aloma said the investigation has been slowed by the reluctance of some potential witnesses to come forward and talk about their experiences with Buck, despite the fact that the L.A. County District Attorney has granted some of them an exemption from prosecution for crimes such as prostitution or drug use that they might have to admit to in discussing the situation.