Sheriffs tackled street takeover, suspicious devices and arson in November

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The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station had a particularly active month in November, marked by a range of incidents and a high volume of police activity. The details provided by Lieutenant Fanny Lapkin and Sergeant Jason Duron in their report to the Public Safety Commission on Monday night gave a comprehensive overview of the law enforcement challenges and actions taken during this period.

The station responded to a substantial number of service calls, totaling 1,697 in November. Arrests made during the month were significant, with 44 classified as felonies and 68 as misdemeanors. 

The distribution of Part 1 crimes varied across West Hollywood. The West District was the most affected, with 61% of these crimes, followed by the City Center (25%) and the East End (14%). 

Property theft, particularly pickpocketing, emerged as a major concern, accounting for 24% of the Part 1 crimes. The 45 incidents of pickpocketing reported were concentrated in the Rainbow District’s entertainment venues, indicating the persistent trend of criminals targeting areas with high foot traffic and distracted individuals. The involvement of organized groups in these crimes highlights the sophisticated nature of these offenses and the challenges faced by law enforcement in preventing and responding to them.

The report also highlighted the valuable role of volunteers at the station, who contributed a notable 206 hours in November. This volunteer work is crucial, supplementing the efforts of regular officers and strengthening community ties. The invitation extended to Commissioners to join the volunteers on ride-alongs underlines the station’s commitment to transparency and community partnership.

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Several specific incidents were underscored in the report, illustrating the varied nature of the challenges faced by the Sheriff’s Department:

  • The arrest of six suspects on November 7th for pickpocketing cell phones near Santa Monica Boulevard demonstrated effective police work in tackling organized crime. The recovery of stolen property in such cases is vital for both justice and community relations.
  • The handling of the suspicious device on Fairfax Avenue on November 15th showcased the department’s capability to respond to potential threats swiftly and efficiently. The evacuation and subsequent investigation by the Arson Explosive Detail underscore the seriousness with which such situations are treated.
  • The assault with a deadly weapon on November 16th, involving a suspect aiming what appeared to be a rifle at a school employee, highlighted the potential for violence in community spaces and the quick response by law enforcement to protect public safety.
  • The disruption caused by over 100 bicyclists on November 18th may seem minor compared to other crimes, but it reflects the variety of situations the Sheriff’s Department must be prepared to handle. The coordination with Beverly Hills PD in this instance is an example of inter-departmental collaboration.
  • The break-in and subsequent arson at an apartment complex on Crescent Heights on November 19th is particularly concerning, combining property crime with a potentially dangerous situation. The ongoing search for the suspect shows the department’s commitment to resolving such cases.

During the question-and-answer period, the commission inquired about homeless activity at the Ralph’s supermarket, which a resident brought to their attention during Public Comment — specifically whether the Sheriff’s Department had a letter of agency for it. The response clarified that due to the nature of Ralph’s as a business open to the public and possibly operating 24 hours, it didn’t meet the criteria for such a letter, which is typically more relevant for private properties. This led to further discussion about what actions the department could take to address issues at Ralph’s, particularly concerning a problematic stairwell. The department acknowledged regular patrols and responses to increased complaints and incidents at this location, emphasizing their ongoing efforts to monitor and clear the area of any illicit activities.

“Sometimes they’re hanging out just because they’re homeless and they’re trying to stay warm and that’s not that’s necessarily somebody that we would be enforcing laws on we just being asking them to leave when things like drug activities going on,” the sheriff said. “That’s when we would be taking action for sure.”

The commission then shifted focus to the Community Interaction Team (CIT), expressing high regard for their work and seeking clarification on what activities constitute “crime suppression” for the CIT. The explanation provided detailed that the CIT, composed of daytime and nighttime teams, is dedicated to areas with increased crime rates. They utilize tactics like foot and bike patrols, based on current crime trends and intelligence from detectives, to focus on specific issues such as residential and vehicle burglaries.

The commission brought up the recent “bike takeover” incident, describing it as a distressing experience where bicyclists not only blocked traffic but also caused damage to cars.

“I was in the middle of the bike takeover,” said Commissioner George Nickle. “It was very scary. They didn’t just take over the streets. They actually hit the cars and spat on the cars. It was unpleasant.”

The sheriffs the occurrence of such organized events, often with little to no prior warning to the authorities. The sheriffs also discussed a recent arson case at Crescent Heights, highlighting that the suspect, known to them, was involved in mail theft and is currently being sought.

The discussion then turned to the prevalence of burglaries and robberies in the area, including recent incidents on Rangely and Dorrington. Lapkin and Duron acknowledged that while some crimes might have elements of organized crime, conclusively linking them without solid evidence like surveillance footage is challenging. They also mentioned an upcoming inter-agency meeting aimed at sharing information and strategies to combat potential organized crime groups.

Attention was then directed towards outreach efforts to homeless people. Despite making nearly 200 contacts, the success rate was dismal — only one individual accepted help out of the 90 who were offered — a testament to the limitations faced by law enforcement in compelling homeless people to accept assistance or vacate certain areas, barring any criminal activity.

“So what happens when they don’t want to accept and they don’t want to leave the city and you don’t want to leave the premises and stuff like that happens. What happens then?” a commissioner asked.

“Obviously, they’re not committing some type of a crime,” the sheriffs said. “There’s not really much we can do. even if they were committing a crime that’s really not a solution in our eyes to what the problem is. It’s a tough. It’s one of those tough battles that that all law enforcement is facing right now where we’re dealing with people that are homeless which isn’t really a crime. I mean, they may commit crimes but trying to force things upon them is not really a solution in our eyes we do our best to try to offer things and make things better for them.”

Questions were raised about crime trends and the observed decrease in deputy-initiated observations compared to the previous year. The officials explained that such fluctuations could be attributed to a variety of factors and do not necessarily indicate a reduction in law enforcement vigilance or effectiveness.

The meeting also delved into the handling of pickpocketing incidents in nightclubs and bars. Concerns were voiced about the response efficacy of club staff in such situations. The sheriffs emphasized their ongoing efforts to collaborate with and educate venue staff to mitigate and manage pickpocketing incidents.

Towards the end of the meeting, discussions touched upon retail theft, especially during the holiday season, and the strategies employed by law enforcement to address this issue, such as deploying additional units for holiday suppression and targeted patrols to focus on areas with reported increases in criminal activity.

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Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
6 months ago

These arrests and other interventions are a direct result of a properly funded and supported robust system of armed and sworn deputies. We have more work to do to get to funding and staffing levels that are aligned with our unique situation as a destination and night-life city.

Manny
Manny
6 months ago

It’s remarkable that a “letter of agency” needs to be explained to the public safety commission. It’s also remarkable that some of these commissioners have not spent a few hours riding along with a deputy. That should be a requirement for new commissioners before they attend their first meeting.

Other than that, it’s good to hear residents speak up about their concerns and the commission trying to facilitate a solution.

Enough!
Enough!
6 months ago
Reply to  Manny

I agree, I think every Public Safety Commissioner and City Council member should be required to ride with the Sheriffs. I can’t see how they can criticize their work if they don’t have any clue as to what they’re dealing with on a daily basis. It would be an education for all of them.

Exactly!
Exactly!
6 months ago
Reply to  Manny

Exactly! That would be an excellent recommendation to make at their next meeting.

Rik Haroldson
Rik Haroldson
6 months ago

Lieutenant Fanny Lapkin (not Sgt)

Larry Block
6 months ago
Reply to  Rik Haroldson

Article updated thanks.

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