LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department has announced it will deploy additional Metro officers to areas with the highest rates of violent crime across the city, with many of them likely to end up in South Los Angeles, where gang violence has spiked in recent weeks.
The LAPD’s Metro officers are not stationed out of geographic police divisions, but are assigned as needed to areas based on the level of violent crime, Capt. Jeff Bert told City News Service Sept. 3.
“We deploy metropolitan division where violent crime has spiked, traditionally,” Bert said.
The Metro division has grown by 200 officers in the past six months, reaching an unprecedented 482 officers, he said. The division is graduating its latest batch of officers, which will enable the Metropolitan Division to send out as many as 100 officers per night, “more than in a very long time,” Bert said.
Metro officers have specialized crime-suppression training, which includes identifying potential criminal activity such as drug transactions, enforcing laws, conducting warrant checks, running vehicle license plates and conducting pedestrian and traffic stops, Bert said.
Bert said the officers are not necessarily there to respond to calls, but will serve as backup when needed, and they will also “engage community members, find out what people are afraid of and try to help them.”
South Los Angeles neighborhoods — served by the LAPD’s South Bureau — saw 60 shootings in just the last two weeks of August, with 50 people hit and 15 people killed, Bert said.
Other high-crime areas where the Metro officers may be deployed include the area served by the Newton Division, which is part of the Central Bureau. That area has also seen a large percentage jump in crime, he said.
Violent crime across the city has seen a jump, with Police Chief Charlie Beck reporting last week that as of Aug. 29 homicides in Los Angeles were up 7 percent to 185, compared with the same first eight months of last year.
About half of the 39 homicides in August occurred in South Los Angeles, according to LAPD officials. Beck has said that with gang crime up 15 percent, many of the killings appear to be driven by gang activity.
Bert said South Los Angeles is a major focus for extra police resources.
In addition to the Metro officers, the South Bureau has set up a command post that will monitor criminal activity across each of its divisions, which are Southwest, 77th Street, Southeast and Harbor.
Crime is traditionally tracked by each division, so the command post will centralize the monitoring of crime activity in the South Bureau, Bert said.
A high-ranking officer will also be sent to the South Bureau to give oversight and make decisions about how to deploy resources, he said.
Gang units and city gang intervention workers also will be focusing their attention on the area, Bert said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city and Police Department are making a multi-pronged effort to respond to a spike in gang crime, including the deployment of more officers, outreach efforts to area clergy and expansion of gang-reduction and youth-development programs.
“As you’ve seen in recent days we’ve seen a rise in violent crime after more than a decade of significantly lower levels of crime,” the mayor said.
“We’re still near historic lows, its important to remember, but any trend up is always a disturbing one — I know for the chief, for this council and for me.
“There are no easy explanations but any loss of life on our streets I always take a pause every single day, whether it’s a crime victim who has been shot by somebody in the community, whether it’s an officer-involved shooting — these are painful things and a loss of life is something that we as human beings must pause and recognize whenever and however they happen.
“But the LAPD isn’t just sitting back on its hands,” he said. “We’re sending additional officers into the communities that need them most. “We’re sending gang-reduction and youth-development programs into communities for their first expansion in years to cover more than 70 percent of the areas where gangs operate in Los Angeles. We’re expanding our domestic violence programs, we’re looking at our lead officers — another platoon of which will be ready this week to go into the community and communities like our Central division and South Los Angeles who are seeing the highest spikes in crime.”
Beck met with commanders in the department’s South Bureau last week to review their plans for addressing the uptick in gang, such as staffing a command center and adjusting police resources while working with the community.
“Having said that, gang crime is violent crime in Los Angeles,” Beck said. “Over 55 percent of our homicides are traditionally gang-related, almost 25 percent of our violent crime. This is the issue that Los Angeles has to deal with most centrally to impact crime.
“Because of that, we have very, very strong strategies, but those strategies sometimes take time to work,” the chief said. “When you have young men that are determined to commit violence upon one another, sometimes it can be difficult to tamp it down, but we are working toward that and I have confidence in what we’re doing.”
Garcetti noted that attacking the spike in crime is not just a matter of flooding the area with officers, but building relationships with the community. He said he told new LAPD officers during a graduation ceremony Sept. 4 that they need to build a rapport with the areas they are assigned to protect.
“For every stop that you make on the street, stop into a store and introduce yourself,” he said. “For every person you put in jail, go to a high school class and teach a new generation about police and get to know them at the same time.”
He also said the city is assembling a “clergy task force” and “working with faith-based civic organizations to see what other resources in those communities that are hit by some of the crime spikes we’re seeing can be targeted and available.”
“This for me is a situation that underscores our need to be ever mindful of the true value of community and relationship based policing,” the mayor said. “We owe the people of Los Angeles nothing less.”