Public stairways put neighbors steps away from crime

The public stairways that wind their way through the hills of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Mount Washington and other neighborhood have been re-discovered by many thanks to new books and tours.  But, as the L.A. Weekly points out, some residents who live near the stairs wish they were locked up for good, with many complaining about everything from graffiti and trash to criminal activity and loud exercise buffs.

Echo Park senior lead officer Bobby Hill, in an interview with the Weekly, recounts how gang members have used the stairs to their advantage:

Bobby Hill, LAPD’s senior lead officer for Echo Park/Elysian Valley, agreed that staircase neighbors are disproportionately vulnerable to crime. The Northeast Community Police Station, which covers two to three hundred thousand people, receives at least two to three calls a day regarding stairways.

“Where there’s a higher concentration of known gang members [in Echo Park], they use those stairs to conduct their business,” Hill said, citing numerous examples off the top of his head of drug dealers and car thieves who took advantage of the cover provided by the stairs to commit crimes or escape the police.

“That’s a hell of a head start, especially if they know the routes,” he said. “It does make apprehending them very, very difficult.”

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  1. This is why we neeed vigilantes who can round up these scumbags and deal with them Texas style.

  2. Where’s Charles Bronson when you need him ?

  3. To be honest if the public wont tolerate crime rather than turn a blind eye than the thugs will know they are persona non grata but the police always are against this thing called vigilante since it proves them inept at there jobs, take the streets back don’t be intimidated by these chumps!

  4. Maybe if they were cleaned up, well-maintained, properly lit and well used they wouldn’t be so much of a problem. And it’s not like gang/drug issues would be solved by closing them down, either. What a ridiculous notion. It’s already enough that underground tunnels and bridge walkways have been closed off. Forget subsidized housing, forget rehab programs and social services, forget social and economic justice. Let’s just turn all of our sidewalks and parks into 4 line highways and I’m sure all of our issues with poverty, vagrancy and gangs will just disappear.

    Public space and the people that use it should not be criminalized. I walk to work every day (and use the bus whenever I need to get anywhere else); the length of my route would triple if I didn’t have access to these stairways.

  5. pro-tip: anything that the LA Weekly writes about transportation and public space- do the opposite

  6. Is there adopt a stairway program ? Like the highway? . The “The Dude” Stairway”

  7. A big + 1 to “corner soul” and “ao”! The solution is not to close off public and pedestrian spaces, but to get out and use them.

  8. I am glad that we all agree on the vigilante approach. We just need squads of citizens out there making sure the criminals stay out.

  9. Lives Off Of Staircase

    Right on ao, all too often people choose more rules and locks over just making a place unwelcome for this sort of activity. The Gang members who live in the neighborhood don’t stop gang activities because you put a gate on some stairs. What is the gain from that? No one can ever use the stairs because some people, sometimes use them inappropriately.

    I live off of one of these stairways, although a rarely trafficked one besides the residents that use it to get to their home. On the street visible portion there are times when non residents are hanging out in the evening and that alone does not bother me because it is PUBLIC. The only reason people use it for activity that they want hidden is that much of the staircase is poorly lit and allows them to hide their activity. It also is in dis repair for a portion and has some empty bottles floating around. A garbage can, some repair work and a few lights would go a long way to making people feel less inclined to use it in a disrespectful manner.

    And for people upset about “loud exercise buffs” why did you move next to a public staircase. That is like moving next to a freeway and complaining you can hear cars all the time. DEAL WITH IT.

  10. I agree with ao that the stairways should be maintained and well lit, but I also think this would be a great opportunity to re-introduce police foot patrols.

  11. Power to the people!! >;o

  12. I find it frustrating when people take it upon themselves to lock the stairways that are public. I was taking a long walk awhile back and decided to get back home by taking the Effie staircase down to Glendale Blvd- to my surprise, there was a gate with a padlock at the top of the stairs! I know someone had attempted to gate off the bottom of that staircase a year or so ago, but I know that was removed since the city didn’t install it.


    and timely graffiti removal.

  14. These public stairways are part of the historical character of Echo Park. They are not “putting neighbors steps away from crime”– in most cases, the stairway was there long before the neighbor moved in. If anything, the increased attention that these stairways have received in recent years has reduced crime and made them safer, by encouraging the public to make the proper and intended use of them.

    As with any public resource, there are always going to be a few narrow-minded, fearful property owners who worry that the resource will attract crime, and who would prefer to just shut it down. If these people had their way, there would be no public space in Los Angeles. They are hostile to the very idea of community, and have little respect for the history of our neighborhoods. I’m not surprised that these people exist, but I am disappointed to see their agenda promoted by the Eastsider on this blog.

  15. If chasing criminals up stairs is hard for cops maybe they should spend less time at the donut store and more time on the stairmaster instead.

  16. Jonjon thats racist.

  17. I live next to several of Silver Lake’s stair streets. I’ve lived here for more than twenty years. They are a wonderful part of the unique character of our neighborhood. What do they attract? People going for exercise walks. Visitors intrigued by the charm they provide. I also know that, not far from me, a notorious NIMBY closed off a public stair street on his own, and that the City hasn’t yet wanted to take on the issue of opening it up to the public… and it is us, the public, that owns it!

    I’ve had it with the narrow minded, fear driven, xenophobic people who are afraid of everything they see outside their teensy little worlds. It’s time to stop coddling these losers and re-create the public space that is what makes for vibrant, healthy, happy communities. If there are VERIFIABLE complaints of actual criminal activity involved with a particular site, there are many ways of proactively dealing with them. Citizen engagement, street lighting, regular police patrols. Closing them off? Would you shut down a freeway because a crime was committed on it?

    And what’s this about car thieves making their getaway on a stair street? Someone been watching LA Story too many times?

  18. Maybe in the future they will invent these little boxes that have lenses and the ability to monitor these stairways…

    Oh wait they already exist… CAMERAS!!!!!!

  19. HELLO and THANK YOU Robaire


    Why is it that I can buy a Security System at Costco for $400 complete but LAPD or the Neighborhood Council can seem to get it together to place one at the most obvious areas where crimes repeatedly occur.

    I hear Rampart only has 14 cameras available and those are already in use at the most dangerous areas. I asked my SLO why 14? In london they have thousands, why only 14 for all of Rampart?

    The Answer: Because they have to be monitored 24 hours a day by an officer sitting there looking at the monitors. Say what!??

    My cheap-o video system stores images on four cameras for 10 days. If an event occurs or my alarm is breached, I go back and look through the tape. Its amazing! I sure would be tired if I was sitting there 24 hours a day wating for a bad guy to appear. Thank God for rewind!

    Is there any outrage that the simplest solutions suddenly become insurmountable because an agency *might* have to actually do something? I’ll loan my Costco card to anyone who needs it.

  20. If we were to close all of the streets in Los Angeles, we would no doubt cut down on crime in this city. Those people who live on streets on disproportionately affected by crime than people who do not live on streets. Burglars can make get-a-way escapes faster because we have streets.

    The municipal stairways are streets.

    Of course, if we closed off the streets, there would be those who would complain that the people who bought houses on streets bought property that “came with the nuisance,” as is sometimes said in equity cases. The nuisance was there first. The residents bought after.

    There is a “vacation” procedure by which property owners can petition the City to have streets (including stairways) closed. Property owners apparently do not want to pay for the cost of that proceeding in the case of stairways and alleys.

    Most — if not all — of the municipally owned stairs that were closed in Silver Lake and Echo Park, were closed illegally, without a finding by the City Council that those stairs were a public nuisance. (A public nuisance in the law covers a wide variety of minor crimes that threaten the health, morals, safety, comfort, convenience, or welfare of a community.)

    There is a procedure by which the City Council may temporarily remove streets, alleys and stairways from public use, in addition to the vacation proceeding. The City Council did not use that procedure to close Silver Lake and Echo Park stairs.

    To close those Silver Lake and Echo Park stairs I researched, the City used a Government Code provision a Court of Appeal held to be illegally used to remove Whitley Terrace streets and stairways. (Citizens Against Gated Enclaves v. Whitley Heights Civic Assn.) in Los Angeles.

    Councilman Garcetti is aware the City illegally closed the stairways and he said publicly that he is “open” to opening them but he never did. The City Attorney is aware the City illegally close those stairways. He’s said he’s not going to look into it. Tom La Bonge said that the Council was not going to open the stairways.

    Perhaps as interesting as the illegal stair closures in Silver Lake and Echo Park is the fact that the City Council used the same Government Code procedure to close the Hathaway Estate public streets from public use in about 1978. There’s a big fancy dancy gold lettered sign at the entrance to that gated enclave to let us know that is all private.

    Public property closed off from public use to benefit a few property owners at public expense is illegal. It is possible that some stairways should be temporarily closed after a finding that they are dangerous. I know of no explanation or justification for creating a gated community out of public streets at the Hathaway Estates site.

  21. Fat View, I don’t think the Eastsider is promoting, just reporting.

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