Tuesday, February 19, 2002
Residents Demand More Police Officers to Stop Homicides in Hollenbeck
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Eastside residents marched from their gang-ravaged neighborhoods to Parker Center downtown yesterday to demand more police officers on their streets.
More than 200 people who live within the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Division made the two-mile walk, which concluded in a news conference, conducted in both English and Spanish.
“Our community is speaking out loud and clear that we want more officers,” Councilman Nick Pacheco, whose district includes Boyle Heights, said. “We want our senior lead officers, we want anti-narcotics officers, we want a patrol vehicle in all of our neighborhoods all of the time.”
The Coalition for Peace and Justice, which is composed of neighborhood watch groups, churches, non-profit groups, and community members, coordinated the event.
Organizers repeatedly characterized the march and rally as not being “anti-Parks”—a reference to police Chief Bernard Parks and the citywide debate over whether he should be reappointed to a second term.
But the polite applause Parks received at the beginning of his remarks quickly turned into boos when he said the citywide increase in homicides is not the fault of the LAPD, but a failure by the entire community to prevent the killings.
“We need entire community involvement,” Parks argued, asking for an increase in after-school and other community-based programs.
Members of the mostly Hispanic crowd shouted “it is your fault” while Parks suggested that the public enter into a partnership with the LAPD to prevent crime.
The news conference ended with chants of “Parks has to go” and the unfurling of a banner in the audience that read “Replace Our Chief, Support Our Police.”
Bill Murray of the Hollenbeck Community-Police Advisory Board helped coordinate the event and said the program’s official agenda did not include the anti-Parks chants and signs.
“It was taken advantage of,” Murray said.
Hollenbeck, one of the department’s 18 divisions, has suffered 14 homicides since the beginning of this year, compared with just three during that same six-week period last year.
Surrounded by pictures of the victims, residents urged the LAPD to step up patrols in their neighborhoods and bring back anti-narcotics officers and senior lead officers.
The LAPD’s website shows that department-wide homicides as of Feb. 2 have increased by 60 percent over last year and 89.5 percent from more than two years ago.
Nearly 20 percent of this year’s homicides have occurred in the Hollenbeck Division, including the murder of Ronald G. Brock, an off-duty 19-year-old Camp Pendleton Marine, who was shot to death Feb. 10 in front of his parents’ home.
Brock, who had just returned from a month’s duty in Pakistan, was on leave for the weekend and was killed because he was mistaken for a gang member, division Capt. Paul S. Pesqueira said.
Msgr. John T. Moretta of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights said his parish alone has buried four of the area’s 13 victims this year.
Referring to Brock’s killing, Moretta said:
“The streets of Boyle Heights are more dangerous than the streets of Pakistan.”
Parks said that while he understands residents are upset with the recent upsurge in homicides, he cannot re-deploy the entire Police Department to the Hollenbeck Division.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks some of the division’s narcotics officers were reassigned to deal with potential terrorist activities, but Parks said residents cannot lose sight of the fact that there is a nationwide terrorism warning.
Other department resources have been re-assigned to the division in recent weeks as a response to the upsurge in violence, something Hollenbeck commanding officer Pesqueira, the Hollenbeck commanding officer, said he hopes is helping. The division is trying out some new strategies to deal with territorial drug dealers, career criminals and members of the area’s 36 active gangs, he said.
Parks urged his critics to remember that the city has made significant advancements in reducing crime from about 740 murders a year for 30 years to below 550 murders annually for the last five years.
“This city is reasonably safe for a city this size,” Parks contended.
And he added that the best way to get a picture of crime is to look at trends over a long period instead of in small increments.
“If you look at crime in six-week periods, no one can be chief of police,” Parks said.
Pacheco urged residents to work together to prevent crime in their own neighborhoods.
“We are a big part of our own solution to this problem,” Pacheco said.
Councilman Nate Holden, a strong Parks supporter, suggested seeking a financial solution. Focusing on Pacheco’s power as chair of the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, Holden vowed to approve a city budget that would provide for more police officers, even if it means other programs have to suffer.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company