1997 Winner of
The Webber Seavey Award
for Quality in Law Enforcement
1997 Finalist of
The Herman Goldstein Award
for Problem-Oriented Policing
Los Angeles Police Department
Harbor Gateway Neighborhood Recovery Project
Project Contact: Antoinette Vasquez
Los Angeles Police Department
Management Services Division
Community Policing Unit
150 North Los Angeles Street-Room 724
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Gateway Neighborhood Recovery Project
In recent years, the area known as the Harbor Gateway in the City of Los Angeles has experienced an increase in racial and violent crimes related to gang rivalry. In February 1996, the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD’s) Harbor Area began a Community Policing project targeting a portion of the Harbor Gateway. The Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment (SARA) problem-solving model was used by officers and community members to identify and solve the problem. The project’s goal was to improve the quality of life in the community. In order to achieve this goal, the following objectives needed to be met: remove the blight from the neighborhood, reduce the fear and incidence of crime, especially gang-related crimes and obtain community involvement. Community involvement was essential in maintaining the project.
The targeted project area encompassed a nine-square-block area. The identified rival gangs were the 204th Street Gang (a Hispanic gang) and the 208th Street Gang (an African-American Crip gang). The violent crimes consisted of assaults, drive-by shootings, and homicides. Other crimes included attempted arson, burglaries, grand theft auto, vandalism, and use and sales of narcotics. The offenders were identified as males ranging from ages 6 to 20 years old.
Due to the criminal activity, residents avoided walking in their neighborhood, even during daylight hours. At night, street lights were inoperable and gang members were out in force. Abandoned homes in the area were targets for repeated arson and vandalism. After gang members had taken over several properties, the neighborhood residents became reclusive. Trees and shrubbery were overgrown, graffiti was prominent, and the streets were dirty and cluttered with abandoned furniture, tires, and trash. Residents were afraid to report crime to the police for fear of retribution. African-American residents were threatened by the Hispanic gangs and told not to frequent certain business establishments. The area’s gangs had marked the streets with their gang affiliations. Gunshots were heard almost nightly. There were no neighborhood watch groups in place, and many residents expressed fear of attending meetings due to the possibility of gang retaliation.
In order to obtain a clear perspective on the situation and to explore possible solutions, several brainstorming sessions were held between officers and Community-Police Advisory Board (C-PAB) members. Community-Police Advisory Boards consist of community volunteers who work in partnership with the LAPD to identify, prioritize, and solve Community-Police problems to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles.
As a result of the brainstorming sessions, individuals and groups affected by the problems in the area were identified and a list of questions was developed. Creation of the list helped to identify possible resources, concerns, and past responses to the problem. As a part of this early analysis, input was elicited from various City, State, and Federal agencies, as well as the community.
In addition to the brainstorming sessions with the C-PAB, the community’s input was sought both formally and informally. Formally, a mail survey was conducted from February 15, 1996, to March 15, 1996. Informally, officers walked through the neighborhood and spoke to community members about their concerns.
A project steering committee was organized by the project’s lead officer to find innovative ideas to unite and improve the community. The steering committee consists of representatives from the Mayor’s office, County Supervisor, City and County Human Relations Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Torrance Police Department, United States Assistant Attorney General, City Attorney, District Attorney, LAPD detectives and narcotics officers, school principals, Chamber of Commerce, City Council Representatives, Department of Water and Power, City Neighborhood Recovery, and Department of Public Works (Street Maintenance), as well as, two psychiatrists and an anger management counselor.
As a means of charting and evaluating the project’s progress, problem-solving goals were established for a three-month, six-month, and one-year period:
- The short-term (three-month) goals included eliminating the daily recurrence of graffiti, reducing violent and racial crime, identifying the primary offenders, establishing a zero tolerance for gang activity, and mobilizing community involvement.
- The mid-term (six-month) goals included demolishing and removing abandoned houses, apprehending offenders, conducting parole and probation sweeps, holding neighborhood clean-ups and potlucks, working with neighboring police departments and sharing information, targeting and apprehending the top ten area criminals, working with business owners to remove annoyance items (public telephones used for gang and narcotic activity), working with the respective Councilmember to improve area resources and City responses, and creating an environment in which residents cooperate with, rather than fear, the police.
- The long-term (one-year) goals included demolishing and removing abandoned business structures, improving the overall quality of life, re-claiming the community from the gangs, assisting community members to take pride and ownership in their community, reinforcing positive attitudes and perceptions among the youth, reducing violent and racial crime and receiving positive feedback from the community.
In addition, a strategic plan was developed to circumvent gang involvement through early intervention with school children and to educate the community on the importance of neighborhood unity.
At the onset of the project, officers analyzed crime reports and conducted a mail survey. The survey was directed toward the neighborhood residents to identify specific problems. The survey revealed that graffiti, gangs, violent crimes, and abandoned buildings were a primary concern to the community. The survey also indicated an overall approval rating of only 33 percent for the LAPD.
A crime analysis study indicated that 48 percent of the crimes were committed on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 1800 to 2200 hours. The majority of crimes were committed in or near three identified "hot" spots within the targeted nine-square-block area. The crime reports also revealed an increase in hate crimes in the community. Coincidentally, hate crimes escalated with the closing and demolition of a nearby housing development. At that time, the African-American residents living in the development moved north to a neighborhood that had been predominantly Hispanic.
Throughout the project, Harbor Area’s Crime Analysis Detail maintained detailed crime information on the neighborhood, including arrest and deployment statistics. Officers used the statistics as a tool to measure their progress in reducing crime in the neighborhood.
In order to determine the best response to problems in the neighborhood, monthly meetings were held between the Harbor Area and various agencies. During the meetings, the problems were discussed, including what had been done, what still needed to be done, and if there was a better way of resolving the problem. The entities involved in the meetings helped brainstorm and volunteered their services. These entities were: Harbor Area’s Special Problems Unit (SPU), Harbor Crisis Response Team, Area Detectives, Narcotics Unit, LAPD’s Operations-South Bureau Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH), Department of Building and Safety, respective Councilmember’s office, local Congressional representative, City Attorney’s office, Commission on Human Relations, probation officers, parole officers, and California Youth Gang Services. In addition, Harbor Area Senior Lead Officers played a vital role in analyzing and responding to problems in the community. Senior Lead Officers are patrol officers who oversee and coordinate the problem-solving activities of the Basic Car, LAPD’s primary service delivery units. A Basic Car consists of a group of officers, one Senior Lead Officer and additional officers, assigned specifically to patrol and answer radio calls for service in a designated geographic location (patrol beat). The Harbor Patrol Area’s Basic Car consists of 14 officers.
In order to analyze the problem, the officer who led the project used the knowledge obtained during LAPD’s Community-Police Problem Solving (C-PPS) training course. The officer employed the tactics provided by the class, such as the mail survey and providing the residents with a City services information sheet. In addition, the officer developed contacts for networking with outside organizations for the necessary assistance in dealing with the specialized needs of this diverse community. Based upon the severity of the crime in the targeted area, Harbor Area officers determined early on that C-PPS was the best method available to solving the community’s crime problems.
Officers worked the targeted area to develop a "zero tolerance" strategy on crime and to present a highly visible police presence. The Patrol Commanding Officer allocated LAPD’s special resources, SPU and CRASH, to walk foot beats and increase police visibility in the area. Through numerous foot beats and increased patrols in the area, the officers developed a rapport with the residents who talked with them regarding their needs. Roll call training was conducted for the officers on all watches regarding this project and the special needs of this area.
A communication system was created for all Harbor Area’s Basic Car officers. Trespassing violations were documented and placed in a file. The file states whether the individual had been previously warned. All officers working the concerned Basic Car received a copy of the trespassing file.
Harbor Area officers met with children to gain their trust and respect. Officers established a rapport with the community by handing out LAPD trading cards, free soft drink coupons, and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) items. As they began to believe in the sincerity of the LAPD, residents provided information regarding their community. Based upon information officers received from the community, a methamphetamine lab was located and destroyed. The drug manufacturers’ (204th Street gang members) arrest eliminated the drug supply in the area for some time.
Other LAPD resources allocated to the target area included the Vice Unit, Narcotics Unit, Bike Unit, Focused Attack Linking Community Organizations and Neighborhoods (FALCON) Narcotic Abatement Unit, Air Support, Harbor reserve officers, Cadet Scouts, Juvenile Curfew Task Force, Traffic Coordination Section’s Immediate Booking and Release System (IBARS), and the Noise Abatement Team. The Harbor Patrol Bike Unit targeted vehicles with expired registration tags and had them towed away. The Unit conducted pedestrian stops, and supplied information regarding the area obtained during field interviews.
Detectives continuously monitored the specific targeted area for all crimes of violence and gang activity. They established liaison with the District and City Attorney’s offices for special handling of prosecution cases from the targeted area. The detectives maintained contacts with victims and witnesses to ensure no intimidation from the defendants’ associates occurred. They maintained close liaison with the Senior Lead Officers, CRASH, and officers assigned to the area. They also maintained liaison with outside agencies: Toberman House, Gang Alternative Program, California Youth Gang Services, and supported these agencies in their gang intervention programs.
Harbor Area Community Relations Office (CRO) assisted in a curfew task force. The Harbor Area Explorer Scouts went from door to door passing out information regarding laws concerning juveniles. Later that week, Harbor Area conducted a Gang Suppression Detail in the targeted area, arresting curfew and probation violators. Traffic Coordination Section’s IBARS assisted in the booking process, and Harbor residents volunteered assistance in notifying parents of the arrest.
Harbor Area officers were deployed to enforce the truancy laws in the Harbor Gateway area. Offenders were cited and returned to school. Students and their parents were then required to appear at a meeting of the School Attendance Review Board, consisting of school officials, Harbor Area’s Juvenile car officers and a detective. The family was given the opportunity to explain the truancy; if no reasonable explanation was forthcoming and the parents appeared unwilling to accept responsibility, then the child was remanded to the custody of the State. As a result of the parents’ lack of concern, a social worker was contacted and any welfare benefits were terminated.
The Harbor Crisis Response Team went into the problem area and worked on reducing racial tensions with the African-American and Hispanic groups. Patrol officers actively sought concerned residents and gave them information on neighborhood watch programs. Officers also assisted in contacting apartment owners to place no-trespassing notices on properties. Juvenile Division was contacted for information regarding after-school activities for youth to steer them away from gang activity. The Foreign Prosecution Unit notified officers on how to proceed with illegal immigrants committing crimes. Traffic Against Gangs unit targeted specific gang locations and enforced all traffic violations which led to numerous arrests for automobile theft, felony warrants, concealed weapons, narcotics, and burglaries.
The following external resources were used to reduce the fear and incidence of crime, especially gang violence, and improve the quality of life in the neighborhood:
- Utilized community service workers to trim trees and shrubbery to provide Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.
- City Street Maintenance picked up large items and swept streets.
- Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan’s program, "Operation Bright Lights" replaced street lights and added bulletproof coverings.
- General Telephone and Electric (GTE) removed a nuisance telephone from the neighborhood. The telephone had been the source of numerous resident complaints as a "hang out" location and source of criminal activity.
- Contacted the Police Commission to revoke permits on privately owned telephones that were on City property.
- The California State Department of Alcohol Beverage Control enforced alcohol code violations.
- Contacted the Mexican Consul General’s Office to seek assistance with the Hispanic community in establishing dialogue between the residents and the police regarding filing of police reports and understanding racial tension.
- Contacted and received assistance from the 15th District Councilmember Rudy Svorinich, Jr. in obtaining the cooperation of probation and parole officers to jail suspects in violation of their court ordered conditions.
- Received assistance from Councilmember Rudy Svorinich, Jr. for inclusion in the Neighborhood Recovery Partnership, a program integrating and coordinating the services of several City departments, to further revitalize the neighborhood.
- Contacted the courts and various judges to implement a pilot program targeting violent gang members who live outside of the City.
- Established meetings with religious leaders regarding racial aggression and the impact it has on the community. Requested that the religious leaders speak to their congregation regarding the problem.
- Requested Gang Alternative Program (GAP) assistance in removing graffiti, repainting red curbs, sweeping the streets, and painting garages. Made residents responsible for notifying GAP of recurring graffiti.
- Worked with the City’s Department of Building and Safety to condemn and destroy abandoned houses and business structures which were creating a nuisance. As of February 1997, the Department of Building and Safety has been successful in tearing down four houses and one business structure in the targeted area. Property owners welded shut all of the doors and boarded up all the windows in the abandoned houses that were not scheduled for demolition.
- A community member obtained a federal grant, known as Healthy Start, for $400,000. This grant allowed professional counselors from South Bay Counseling Services to help foster healthy racial attitudes among the youths at 186th Street Elementary School.
- The LAPD’s Behavioral Sciences Services Section received assistance from the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP). The CSPP representatives brainstormed on changing racial attitudes and perceptions among the youth in the targeted areas. These doctors are continuing to work on developing a strategic plan utilizing resources which would normally be unavailable to the LAPD, such as census data and community mapping professionals.
- Mobilized residents to block off escape routes of suspects by educating them on various methods. Methods that residents used included repairing holes in fences, building brick walls, cementing entrances and exits, installing barbed wire and various barricades around their homes. The residents became very proactive and creative in blocking off escape routes.
- Probation and parole officers were contacted to assist in search and seizure raids. A top ten list of gang members were targeted as the main offenders in the problem areas. They were identified by Department of Motor Vehicles’ photographs and displayed on a board in the Harbor Area roll call room.
- The probation officers supplied lists of gang members on active probation and will facilitate probation violations and court proceedings.
- A meeting known as the "School, Police, Information Network" (SPIN) is held once a month with the members of the Torrance Police Department, Los Angeles School Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, LAPD, and the principals of area high schools, junior high schools, and elementary schools. The purpose of the meeting is to share information regarding incidents that may occur involving the students. Each organization shares information to prevent major occurrences.
- Harbor College Dean of Academic Affairs agreed to provide computer training to residents living in the targeted areas, free of charge. The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs offered to transport residents to the college.
- Contacted Chamber of Commerce who provided space for business owners to have meetings, free of charge, and a "Stop-In Center" for use by police officers.
- Attended Chamber of Commerce meetings regularly and sought financial assistance for clean-up operations. Established a professional relationship with several business owners, a State Senator, and a Congressional representative, all of whom donated their services when requested.
- The 186th Street Homeowner’s Association donated various materials needed to clean up and improve the community: chain saws, garbage bags, paint, rose bushes, barbeque, and police stickers for kids.
- The Area C-PAB has been very active in assisting the Senior Lead Officer with administrative duties by typing documents, holding letter writing campaigns (to residents) to educate them regarding lighting, trespassing, who to contact regarding cleaning up the community, and posting signs regarding trespassing.
- Department of Transportation assisted in towing illegally parked and abandoned vehicles.
- The Los Angeles Fire Department removed a makeshift gym resembling a prison workout yard that was set up in the parking lot of an apartment complex. The apartment owner wanted the weights to be removed, but was afraid to undertake this himself. Gang members were the sole users and instigated various problems at this location. The location was the origin of daily radio calls. This blight intimidated renters at the location which caused them to move, and the owner was unable to rent the apartments. It was not until the apartments became unrentable that the owner requested the assistance of the police.
- A title company provided the LAPD with a listing of all property owners and addresses located in the targeted areas. The C-PAB members wrote letters requesting apartment owners attend a meeting held at a local school to start an Apartment Owner’s Coalition. An apartment owner currently documents and tracks all residents who were evicted from various locations in the problem area.
- Met with the City Attorney and District Attorney’s office to make sure they would prosecute various violations and pursue maximum jail terms.
- Honda Corporation has tentatively awarded a $12 million grant targeting reinforcement of youth’s attitudes toward individual responsibility and positive thinking. The grant will help establish a motorcycle repair program where each individual will receive a motorcycle worth $2,500 to learn skills on dismantling and reassembling them.
- The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs offered after-school programs in specific areas. They offered to assist with transporting youths to and from the Honda Corporation facility and to help identify targeted youth.
- A Los Angeles County Human Relations coordinator attempted to mediate in the problem area, but became intimidated by local gang members and discontinued the service. Approximately one year later, another coordinator from the same office approached police with his concerns for the area. He has proven to be willing to assist in procuring grant funding, work as a liaison between Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the LAPD, and helped in obtaining ongoing community involvement.
- United Way organized meetings with community members to promote racial tolerance.
- The Girl Scouts adopted an area in which they painted out graffiti and maintained a zero-tolerance approach for this activity within the community.
- Worked with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on a task force to identify and arrest the offenders who lived in outside areas, but committed crimes in the targeted area.
- California Highway Patrol and Torrance Police Department offered their assistance in additional enforcement due to the fact that some gang members lived in Torrance and traveled on a freeway.
- Contacted the Department of Health Services to cite various houses for demolition.
- Notified HUD to assist in evictions of targeted gang members on Section Eight housing. Continued relationship with HUD to better screen applicants for housing to prevent the importation of violent criminals into the area.
- Researched to find a Los Angeles company that would pick up and recycle old tires.
- Contacted the Southland Corporation (7-11 stores) and received numerous free coupons for hot dogs and large drinks to give to kids in the community to establish a positive rapport.
- A local nursery donated climbing vines for heavily graffiti-covered areas, to prevent the problem from recurring.
- Contacted the local City Councilmember to lobby for inclusion in the Neighborhood Recovery Partnership Program.
In a five-month period, over one hundred gang members were sent or returned to jail as parole or probation violators and the remaining gang members began to leave the neighborhood. There are still gang-related problems in the neighborhood, but occurrences have greatly diminished. In addition, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office is investigating crimes in the area for possible civil rights violations.
As part of their new partnership with the police in reporting crimes, the residents have learned how the Police Department functions and the proper City entities to call for various non-police services. This has helped to reduce the number of unnecessary telephone calls to the Police Department.
At the onset of the new policing deployments, the residents were somewhat skeptical of the Police Department’s sincerity in tackling their problems. However, as the community gained confidence in the Police Department, they began to report crimes more often. As a result, there was an increase in reported violent crimes. The number reached a high of 88 violent crime reports in the month of May 1996. This number held fairly steady for about three months until September 1996, when only 35 crime reports were made, a 63 percent drop. These figures have held steady through February 1997 when only 24 crimes were reported. Overall, crime in the Harbor Area has decreased by about 1,500 Part I crimes (burglary, assault, robbery, rape, murder), approximately 13 percent. Officers who have been involved in this effort throughout the year now comment that while they used to receive frequent radio calls, by contrast the neighborhood is now known as a "ghost town."
A second neighborhood survey was conducted from December 15, 1996 to January 15, 1997 on the progress of the project. The Police Department approval rating rose from 33 percent to 87 percent. The neighborhood appreciated the Department’s response to abating graffiti, gangs, violent crimes, and abandoned buildings in the community. The community enjoyed the increase of patrol visibility and generally felt the LAPD was more responsive to their concerns.
Harbor Area officers have received countless thanks from community members for the Department’s work in their neighborhood. Residents now frequently wave to passing officers. Children approach police cars more frequently, and the community as a whole has said "thank you" for finally addressing their longstanding concerns. Officers working the area have received several written messages of support, including one that was distributed and signed by all the neighbors of a street. Residents have written to City Councilmember Rudy Svorinich, Jr., to express their thanks for his support for police operations in the area. Harbor Area officers have also received recognition from City, State, and Federal representatives on behalf of the Harbor project. Senior Lead Officer Andrea Grossman, who served as the lead on the project, received the Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate. The Sherwood Prize, an annual law enforcement award, was established by the Anti-Defamation League to honor law officials who respond to crimes of hate outside of the normal scope of their duties and create an atmosphere of tolerance in the community.
Growth and redevelopment of the area has begun, as businesses move back into the community. Five blocks north of the target area, a new shopping center with a movie complex is being constructed, anchored by a Wal-Mart store. Negotiations are underway for the inclusion of a 24-hour satellite police station in the complex. The recent revitalization of the aerospace industry has led to an increase in jobs at the existing aerospace facilities in the area and the start of construction of a new McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft facility in the area. Construction is slated to be completed by September 1997. This project is anticipated to bring approximately 3,000 new jobs to the community.
In addition to the new business development, residents are upgrading their homes, making additions, and maintaining their property with pride. Loans have been secured from the Neighborhood Recovery Partnership program to improve the community. The community has organized to form the "Gateway Community Homeowner’s Association," a non-profit organization. The association receives a 501 (B) tax exempt status for clean up of the neighborhood. The homeowner’s association has received 100 gallons of free paint from the Department of Public Works’ program, Operation Clean Sweep. The residents’ pride in maintaining their community has been the key to the ongoing success of the project. Monthly town hall meetings are also continuing where the community voices their concerns and meets with officials from the steering committee.