Highland Park - “What’s driving the crime in your community is gang violence and narcotics,” L.A. police Captain Rick Stabile said, as he and LAPD Captain Arturo Sandoval confirmed a rise in shootings and other criminal activity in the neighborhood.
Those were the top messages at a recent Town Hall meeting with the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council’s Public Safety Committee - heavily attended by residents concerned about a recent uptick in various crimes, particularly shootings.
“This is honestly the largest Public Safety Committee meeting we have had,” said Neighborhood Councilmember MaryLeigh Roohan, who chairs the committee. The discussion ended up lasting more than an hour and a half, when it had originally been scheduled for only 45 minutes.
Stark facts lay at the core of this meeting: Shootings throughout the city have increased since this time last year. There have been eight shootings already just in Highland Park since the beginning of January, according to Senior Lead Officer Mark Allen. Two were homicides, and two others involved people getting shot.
Moreover, Highland Park has long had a bad record for this, Capt. Sandoval said.
“Highland Park, for years and years and years, has accounted for about a third of our shootings,” Sandoval said, referring to the LAPD's Northeast Division, which covers 13 other neighborhoods stretching from Los Feliz to Garvanza. “That’s continued. We did have a little lull in 2018 where we were down by about 20 shootings. But traditionally within Northeast we have about 110 to high-90 shootings - year after year after year.”
Aside from shootings, “Stolen cars are through the roof,” Sandoval said. Crimemapping.com shows approximately 70 vehicle thefts in the Highland Park area since August.
With numerous stakeholders offering questions, the discussion also touched upon homeless encampments, the vulnerability of the homeless themselves, and the challenges of reaching police to report minor crimes and suspicious circumstances. At least two callers also asked specifically what the plan was by police to reverse the trend of shootings and gangs.
Responding to the questions about a plan, Capt. Stabile said plans are made daily how to deploy resources, depending on crime reports from the previous day.
“I move resources daily to (the Ave. 60 exit of the 110 Freeway) to try and combat the crime that’s occurring in the gang community, and in the homeless community," Stabile said. "I have requested Metropolitan Mounted Division in the riverbeds five separate times, and they made some significant progress on arrests. We arrested a man that was on parole for attempted murder right at that very location."
Beyond that, however, both police captains said they are doing what they have always done. The main change, they said, is that suspects are being released more quickly after arrests.
“We are arresting individuals who are carrying guns, who have fired guns, and they’re being released in a day or two days. There are no consequences right now,” Sandoval said. He later added, “The young folks are seeing that there’s no consequences, and many of them are going back to the gang life. After several, several years of a reduction in gang life, we’re starting to see an increase now. Because there are no consequences.”