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Jan 3, 2018

L.A. Police Talk Community Policing Tactics

Over the years, we’ve reported the Belize Department’s community policing initiatives. Locally, a number of programs are used to combat crime – but it is no secret that this softer side to policing is not fully embraced by all rank and file of the department. While a full report to show its impact is not readily available, anecdotally, it is believed that it has reduced crime in the city.  As a part of the U.S. State Department’s support to tackle drugs, gangs and crime in Central America, journalists from the region travelled to Los Angeles and Boston to learn how community-based efforts have benefited the relationship with law enforcers.  In those two cities, there are big populations of Latinos from Central America and the Latin Caribbean. News Five’s Andrea Polanco joined journalists from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica on a reporting tour with the L.A.P.D.  We share a first look at a few of the best practices and tips on community policing.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The City of Los Angeles is the second-largest urban population in the United States and home to four million people. It’s known for its sunny skies, beaches, iconic landmarks and attractions, entertainment and celebrity culture. But decades and decades ago, the City of Angels was synonymous with “city of dreams”, a place where the disillusioned can start over and rebuild their lives. That allure continues to lead people from all over the world to migrate to LA – and one of the biggest immigrant populations is the Latino community. People from all across Latin America, including Central Americans and Latin Caribbean, come here looking for a better life.

 

Mexican National, Undocumented in U.S.A. [Translated]

“I send money for them to study. I have two nephews who are studying communication science at University and I am sending them money for that. And I am here suffering so that they can have a good life over there.”

 

Reporter

“Is it worth it to come here to and work hard so that the family lives good back home?”

 

Central American National, Undocumented in U.S.A.

“Oh yes. Because back there the salaries are very low and we can’t make ends meet – sometimes not even for food and so we live very poor. That is why we come here [in the USA] to progress. And when everyone back home in my country see that workers bring back money from the states and it has value – because in Mexico we barely make anything. We work and work and we are still poor; sometimes it is just enough for food; but we can’t buy clothes. For example, to buy a pants, if you earn eight hundred pesos for the week, a Levi’s [pants] costs a thousand [pesos] Not even the salary for a week can buy you a pants. And that is why a lot of people come here [to the USA], despite the fact that they suffer, but it is worth it.”

 

The introduction of various ethnicities to a different urban culture compounded existing social problems, including gangs and drugs – rife within the Latino communities since the 1920’s. Many of those who can’t get permanent jobs because of their immigration status or the language barrier get involved in illegal trade – and it becomes a cycle within families. But fast-forward to today; criminal street gangs continue to be one of the most serious crime problems in LA and by extension, California. Gang violence—particularly assaults, drive-by shootings, homicides, and brutal home-invasion robberies—accounts for one of the largest, single, personal threats to public safety in the city. And over the years the LAPD, the third largest police department in all of the U.S.A., had to find a solutions to the problems when they discovered that arrest and jail time didn’t make the problem go away. They have learnt that community policing address these issues from the root – starting with children and youth.

 

Javier Barragan

Javier Barragan, Senior Lead Officer, Community Relationship Division, LAPD

“We, as agency, understand that community policing is the answer. You can’t arrest your problem away. We love to start with the kids. We go out and play with kids. As crazy as that sounds.  We understand the value in that. We understand that going out there and playing basketball with a child, hand a child a sticker, kneeling down at their level and offering them an ear and just looking them in the eye is very significant. It makes more of an impact on the child’s life and the community’s life because a parent sees that we are not out there to hurt their kids. Ultimately, that is what you want, that your children are safe and that you feel safe. The job of a law enforcement officer is to protect all people.”

 

To complement the work of the LAPD in communities afflicted by gang warfare, other projects have been developed to reach the vulnerable populations. Officer Joseph Lopes works with the Community Relationship Division. Their work is to improve the relationship between the community and the LAPD. He says “soft activities’ have a big impact on crime and violence in the Latino communities.

 

Joseph Lopes

Joseph Lopes, Latino Liaison, Community Relationship Division, LAPD

“We do shoes with Santa every year, where we as a department, from those divisions, go to talk with the local schools and see what families need shoes. Everybody is like, ‘everybody has shoes.’ And we understand that but it is one of the basic needs that we have. They collect shoes from many different places and shoes with Santa, we invite the families to come to the police stations and Santa is there and they give out the shoes and the toys. A lot of different programs that we have.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Have you seen a marked difference in terms of things that have been happening ten years ago compared to now?”

 

Joseph Lopes

“It is very different. I grew up here in the City of L.A and I will give you another program that we have that can do that. Back in 2003, we had a program called CSP (Community Safety Partnership) that with the Housing Authority and LAPD, we looked at all the housing we had for lower income families and so we looked at these apartments which was about two hundred units. We had a lot of crime in there; we had shootings; we had drug activity. We placed ten different officers in each one and for the first three years crime went down by fifty percent in those areas, but also crime was reported fifty percent more because a lot of people were calling on the police to let them know what was going on in the community. So, these programs, they do work.”

 

And the key to effective community policing is the use of available resources, as well as the establishment of strong partnerships. As Officer Lopes explains, most of these programs are not paid for with public funds.

 

Joseph Lopes

“One of the things is resources and the biggest resources we have is people. The City doesn’t pay for these programs. They are all volunteers; people volunteer. For example, community members, the community we are talking about have members who are willing to give for a better community. We clean up communities, so all it takes is a broom; all it takes is manpower and going out and being there, meeting with the community one on one. That is the most important part; it is not necessarily money. If we have the correct people – and like I said, if we want to clean up the community, all it takes is a broom.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

 

In Thursday’s newscast, we will give you a sneak peek at the activities that Boston PD are doing to fight crime in a Latino community in that U.S. city.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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