Sheriffs talk theft, cameras, DUIs at Public Safety meeting

Sergeant Jason Duran and Lieutenant Fanny Lampkin of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station recapped law enforcement activities in WeHo for the months of July and August 2023 on Monday night for the Public Safety Commission. 

In the month of July, there was no significant increase or decrease in criminal activities. The department noted a decrease in part one crimes by 14 to 16% and reported 31 pickpocket incidents in the Rainbow district. The average number of calls for service was roughly the same as the previous month with 1700 calls, resulting in 49 felony arrests and 85 misdemeanor arrests.

August was a busier month for the department, with personnel responding to 1,934 calls for service, including 99 emergency responses. The department made 58 felony arrests and 119 misdemeanor arrests. The average response times for emergency calls were 3.9 minutes, for priority calls were 10.7 minutes, and for routine calls were 35.2 minutes, all of which were below the department’s standard response times.

Comparatively, there was a 41% increase in part one crimes in August 2023 from August 2022. The crimes were mainly concentrated in the West district, followed by the East End and City Center. The increase in crime rate was primarily due to grand thefts, petty thefts, and vehicle burglaries, which accounted for 154 incidents. The report also highlighted 33 pickpocket incidents in the Rainbow district and three reports of sexual assaults that are under investigation. The department reported 13 grand theft auto cases, five of which involved keys left in unattended vehicles. They advised the public not to leave keys in unattended vehicles to prevent such incidents. Additionally, there were 47 vehicle break-ins and six catalytic converter thefts, with Toyota Prius models being particularly targeted. 

The traffic-related data for August included seven DUI arrests, six of which were associated with traffic collisions. There were also two significant vehicle collisions, one involving a pedestrian and the other a vehicle collision with an object referred to as “East Lunar.” The details of the latter are yet to be confirmed. The report outlined traffic citations, with Santa Monica having the highest number of citations at 21, followed by Fountain and Sunset. The department conducted a special enforcement initiative targeting drivers failing to yield to pedestrians, resulting in over 30 citations in one day.

Volunteers at the station contributed significantly, with 361 hours donated in August, and assisted in preparing for potential storm-related incidents due to tropical storm Hillary. Other notable events include the station’s participation in the National Night Out event, a bush fire incident near the sheriff’s station, and a couple of robbery incidents which are under investigation. 

The report ended with updates on recent activities such as the arrest of a person wanted for attempted murder and the initiation of the 2023 Community Academy, which had 20 participants and included presentations on various law enforcement topics.

The commission inquired about the delay in receiving the Part One crime data, which was missing from the report until today, emphasizing the importance of timely access to such information for meaningful analysis and questioning formulation. The delay was attributed to the vacation of the sole crime analyst responsible for compiling the data, which involves reading every report to extract necessary information.

The commission then brought up a serious incident that occurred on August 10 involving an elderly unhoused individual and a block by block security guard, which was conspicuously absent from the report provided to the commissioners. The incident reportedly resulted in the hospitalization of the individual after an alleged assault by the security guard. While the representatives from the sheriff’s department acknowledged awareness of the incident, they could not explain its omission from the report, promising to follow up in the next meeting.

Next, the discussion turned to the strategy behind the staging of DUI enforcement operations. The commission sought clarity on how the locations for these operations were chosen, wondering if it was based on the number of citations issued or the incidence of collisions. The sergeant explained that the locations were determined through a grant-based traffic services detail that considers various factors including accidents and citations. This central detail, rather than the individual station, sets the location and timing of the enforcements.

The commissioner asked for updates on the installation and functionality of the newly approved license plate reader cameras in West Hollywood. Sergeant Duran informed them that 36 out of 39 cameras were installed but were not yet operational. The system is set to go live following the completion of the installation and the necessary training, which had recently commenced.

Sergeant Duran and Lieutenant Lapkin noted the ongoing process to activate the new camera systems and described the rationale behind the determination of DUI enforcement locations, highlighting the role of a central traffic services detail in this process based on a range of data and factors. They also noted the upcoming training sessions for the new system, emphasizing that the functioning of the new camera systems would commence post these sessions.

The commission inquired about the collaboration with the Block by Block security ambassador team in handling special events, especially the upcoming Halloween event, which will be held in the Rainbow District. Sergeant Duran noted that the event’s scale necessitates coordination with various groups, including the Emergency Operations Bureau, the fire department, code enforcement, and others to ensure safety. The Block by Block team will act as “eyes and ears” during the event, not only within the event area but also in surrounding regions to assist residents not attending the event.

Next, they discussed the strategy behind selecting locations for special pedestrian and bicycle safety activations, which are determined based on current trends and accident locations. The areas can change during the day based on the observations of the enforcement team.

The commission followed up with a question about the practice of officers placing their hand on their gun during traffic stops. Sergeant Duran clarified that this is a safety measure and not an intimidation tactic. It stems from training encouraging officers to be prepared to draw their weapon quickly in dangerous situations, which traffic stops can potentially become. The discussion highlighted the danger inherent in traffic stops and the necessity for officers to secure their weapon as a precaution, not as a threat to the civilians.

They also discussed increased patrols in specific areas with recent security issues, including La Brea and regions above Sunset Boulevard. Efforts include increased foot patrols and collaboration with the Block by Block team to deter crime through increased visibility in problem areas.

The commission raised concerns about the statistics on fentanyl overdoses in the community. Sergeant Duran mentioned the difficulties in obtaining accurate statistics due to restrictions imposed by HIPAA regulations and the need for an explicit cause to investigate a death. He agreed to try to obtain information regarding incidents where fentanyl was found during arrests.

Following up, there was a discussion about the wanted posters for individuals involved in pickpocketing. Sergeant Duran clarified the existence of two versions of wanted posters: one restricted to law enforcement and another for the public, the latter being disseminated through media outlets. She noted the potential for a new technology platform to facilitate broader dissemination of information to businesses and the public. 

In response to a request for a key or legend to help the public understand the different categories of crimes listed in the reports, the officers agreed to work on including general descriptions to help delineate the various crime categories in future reports.

Commissioners emphasized the utility of sharing information on traffic citations and appreciated the manual effort involved in gathering recent data. They asked to include this data in the meeting minutes or amend it to the agenda for transparency.

The commission brought up the concept of using PatronScan, a software system that allows bars, restaurants, and nightclubs to communicate with each other and share information about individuals who have been flagged, possibly due to criminal activities. The commission suggested discussing the potential recommendation of this tool to the city council in a future Public Safety Commission meeting to enhance safety in entertainment establishments.

The commission inquired about a specific incident of attempted robbery on Detroit Street. Sergeant Duran confirmed there was an incident on September 4th where an individual was approached for their watch but managed to deter the suspect by convincing them the watch wasn’t valuable. The case is still under investigation and may be connected to another robbery in LA City’s jurisdiction.

The conversation then shifted to an increase in tagging, particularly on dog waste stations and green fencing in the east side area. While the officers noted they do not have specific statistics on vandalism at the moment, they acknowledged that such incidents often go unreported due to rapid cleanup by abatement companies. They committed to looking into recent reports of vandalism and reverting in the next meeting. 

Another commissioner raised a concern about illegal scavenging, highlighting that individuals are following Athens trash trucks and creating public safety issues by leaving trash strewn on the streets. While acknowledging the concern, the officers suggested that it is a matter to be addressed by the city as it pertains to the city app and not directly the sheriff’s department.

As the discussion advanced, an update on the hiring of a public information officer was sought. Sergeant Duran shared that while they received approval for the hire, the county has implemented a hiring freeze due to staff shortages. She elucidated that the shortage is at the department level rather than the specific station. In the interim, they are receiving assistance from the Sheriff’s Information Bureau and a volunteer, Arjun, who is helping modernize their approach to social media and communications.


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About Brandon Garcia
Brandon Garcia is editor of WEHOville. He oversees the website's editorial direction and creates original content such as news reports, photo and video features, digital art work and advertisements. A native of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, he now lives in WeHo and is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. @brandoninthebubble on Instagram

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19 days ago

I appreciate all their efforts. We need every resource we can get to deter/arrest those that make life miserable for the rest of us.

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
20 days ago

PatronScan and private armed security. Sounds like a fun night out.

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