Opinion: Focusing on Public Safety in West Hollywood

Block by Block security ambassadors

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an op-ed written by a candidate in the Nov. 3 election for one of two seats on the West Hollywood City Council. WEHOville has invited each of the nine candidates to submit up to two op-eds to explain to West Hollywood residents his or her stand on local issues .

In the years leading up to what has now become quite possibly the strangest year in our adult lives, there have been a growing number of concerns impacting public safety, which will now be compounded by the pandemic, social unrest and elections. Overall the city of West Hollywood is safe, especially compared to other neighborhoods in L.A. County. Violent crimes have had a slow but steady decline in the past decade, some newer laws have reduced non-violent crimes and programs implemented in our city have helped to lower some petty crimes, so we have a lot to be proud of.

Yet as I continue to canvass for a seat on the West Hollywood City Council I hear the ever growing concerns for public safety from the community. Finding better solutions to these concerns will be essential to everyone who lives in and visits our great little city, especially amid concerns of the policing system we have relied on to keep our city safe.

According to reports, the West Hollywood Security Ambassador program has made some positive impact since it began, providing important outreach to our residents, businesses and visitors, but according to the residents I’ve talked to, there is plenty of room for improvement. It has led me to contemplate how we could approach the handling of public safety moving forward, especially as calls continue to greatly increase to both the Security Ambassador hotline, fire department and to local law enforcement.

The Security Ambassador program will help create more preventative measures if we increase patrols and make some adjustments to the routes and response system with the goal of stopping crimes before they begin. Consider establishing a quick and easy way to contact them by creating a shorter, easy to remember contact number. Evaluating the routes and schedules, with input from the residents should help to make sure they are at the right place at the right time.

I propose considering a smartphone app that connects residents, visitors and businesses to our Security Ambassadors, where they can assist with stopping simple public disturbances, provide educational information, send public safety alerts, provide safety escorts, connect needy with assistance programs, and alert local law enforcement to more threatening issues.

I would also like to implement a new task force that can take on more complicated cases than the Security Ambassador program is prepared to handle, while also mitigating local law enforcement resources.

We can take the lead from cities like Denver, Col., and Eugene, Ore.,​ who have programs that take emergency calls involving non-violent issues pertaining to homelessness, mental health, and drug abuse and redirect them to trained professionals who can handle these situations and provide suitable help and resources to those suffering. This relieves the police officers, who are not adequately trained to handle these situations, and allows them to focus on stopping violent crimes in our community.

CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) was launched as a community policing initiative in Eugene, Ore., in 1989.

This could involve re-appropriating funds from the law enforcement agencies in order to provide these necessary resources, but it should ultimately reduce the cost to taxpayers as the price tag to send law enforcement to handle these low-level situations, as well as the potential cost of a lawsuit against the city if the situation escalates due to inept police response, can be much more expensive.

Studies have shown that citizens base their perceptions of police officers off their last encounter with an officer. It is also very important to connect our local police officers with our residents to regain trust and understand the issues of the community they serve. Communication is at the heart of all positive and negative encounters. Our city officials have to continuously engage with West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to create public engagement programs and make necessary changes in training, education and policing tactics.

As the city prepares to welcome an outside consultant that will provide us with a detailed assessment of our public safety practices and education, it is imperative that there is a united front among the various city agencies, as well as our residents, to take on the changes that need to come. This means bringing together the Public Safety Department, Public Safety Commission, outside security vendors, local Neighborhood Watch associations, local business owners, Security Ambassadors, city residents, and our local law enforcement to collectively work towards improving public safety.

I believe all of us in West Hollywood understand that there will be a lot of work to do over the course of the next few years as we work to climb out of a recession while facing a new normal. We need leaders in the city that can innovate, bring unity, and work hard to fight against any fallout of 2020.

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William
William
1 month ago

Being a resident of Beverly Hills since 2012 I can weigh in a bit on what has worked or not worked next door. Our Ambassador program has certainly helped reduce the amount of homeless who choose to make BH a place to hang out. When I got here in 2012 it was out of control – I took a picture of the famous BH shield at Santa Monica and Doheny, where a homeless man was literally camped out right next to it, then used this image as a starting point to address the issue with our city council. I have… Read more »

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Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

I voted for you. Seems like the only candidate not stuck in the past.

Ruth Williams
Ruth Williams
1 month ago

In regard to his comments, If he took the time to visit the Public Safety Commission meetings he would know that these are all issues we have discussed. Specifically, the CAHOOTS program which I brought up at several meetings when a friend of mine in Portland forwarded it to me We as a Commission have worked together to bring up a variety of suggestions, including extending the MET team, re-imaging law enforcement, expanding Block by Block, working with Human Services on issues of homelessness, etc.,and forwarding them on to the Council. This is one of the problems in the election… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Ruth Williams

Dear Ms.Williams: Mr. Yusupov did not require such snappy comments. No one knows everything however Mr. Yusupov brings a welcome contrast to the echo chambers of commissions and advisory boards… who have over occupied their seats, then pass on their non-critical thinking up the channel to city staff and city council. Often it is like watching moss grow in a terrarium. Few of these folks have a fresh and/or realistic perspective or experience outside of the 1.9 sq. mile pond known as the West Hollywood. So many meetings, so much circulation, so few accomplishments. This city could be a heads… Read more »

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Ruth Williams

Hi again Ruth- All fair comments from someone who puts in the work herself (and is appreciated for it!). Not only did I receive multiple color flyers on heavy stock from another candidate, but I have also found multiple flyers from the same candidate on my car, once on both the front and back windows! Happy to hear this is not kosher- hope in the future this is made clear to all the candidates with enforced sanctions. If anything, the multitude of flyers actually had the opposite of their intended effect. And I agree with you about participation- I have… Read more »

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
1 month ago
Reply to  Ruth Williams

Thanks Ruth. I am sure he is well intentioned, but he is completely uninformed on the issue of public safety. I so wish that anyone seriously running for Council would take the time for at least a year running up to their candidacy to attend board & commission meetings to really get a feel for what each one does for our City. I don’t know about Public Safety but on Rent, this year, not a single candidate attended our virtual meetings during the campaign season.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Bergstein

Mr. Bergstein, please tell us about all the recent success in Public Safety resulting from the commissioners that regularly attend the commission hearings. Viewing a single hearing will give any discerning viewer a clear picture of the atmosphere and potential as problem solvers. The inner sanctum is not welcoming to outside points of view. They appear to have all the solutions and don’t want to be disturbed

Attend a meeting
Attend a meeting
1 month ago

There’s an ap on ur phone for code compliance and the sheriff is in close contact with the neighborhood businesses. Please attend meetings of the Public Safety Commission instead of running for office w ideas already implemented and working.

Dave on Kings
Dave on Kings
1 month ago

Disruption of a current system may be fine for food & wine delivery and taxi services, but we should use extreme caution changing our emergency services dispatching processes. A crisis moment, for non-trained people, is when we make terrible decisions. This moment, when a person may be tempted to summon Ambassadors via phone-app for drunken behavior could have been time wasted if the person is actually having a stroke. Currently, in that same moment, if someone dials 911, they are guided by a trained person through understanding those symptoms better. Simultaneously, that same 911 tech dispatches the correct services *and… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave on Kings

The entire communication system for emergency and safety issues needs to be clear, direct, consistent and logical. The bulletins issued by the city could use a fresh, uncluttered format as well. Currently it represents a worn out circuit board without clear layout, easily identifiable information and appropriate links. Ongoing narratives without definition are not welcoming to read and to the extreme, cute cartoon characters are how children communicate, not adults.

WeHo Mary
WeHo Mary
1 month ago

Mark, I’m so impressed by the clear way that you present your ideas. It’s also great that the focus is on thoughtful solutions, rather than past grievances. Hoping others see this and vote for you!

Jay
Jay
1 month ago

Hi Mark- Thank you for again sharing your thoughts and research, this time on public safety. A simple app to summon assistance or make a quick report sounds like a great idea! I know to call the Sheriff’s non-emergency line at 310.855.8850 when there are accidents etc. but not sure how many others do. The idea that a hotel could offer the app to their guests makes sense too. I agree with you too that redeploying resources more effectively, both financial and otherwise, is called for if we are going to truly address some longstanding concerns, as opposed to attempting… Read more »

Manny
Manny
1 month ago

Mr Yusupov needs to go on a ride-along with a Sheriff.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Manny

I think it would be a good idea for most people to take a ride along with a sheriff it would open their eyes to see what they deal with each and every day.