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LA's west San Fernando Valley is no 'Shangri-La' as gang crime stirs concern
Daily News - 2/16/2017
Feb. 16--The perception that life west of the 405 Freeway is relatively free of crime is one that hasn't gotten past Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield.
He and other community leaders in the West Valley aren't buying what he's heard from some people.
"They kind of think we live in Shangri-La of the West Valley, and we don't have these kinds of problems," Blumenfied said. "Well, we have these problems, it's not acceptable, and we have to deal with them and we have to get the resources to deal with them."
Among those problems is gangs.
A day after Blumenfield's motion at L.A. City Hall requesting a study of gang activity west of the 405 Freeway was approved by the city's Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, he reported that the LAPD is on it.
The study has begun, he said.
And that's just fine with community leaders such as Peter Lasky, president of the Northridge West Neighborhood Council, who thinks the study is a good idea.
"There is concern about crime in the area, there is no doubt about that," Lasky said. "It would be nice to see what the conclusions of the study are and what recommendations and actions the Police Department would like to put into effect to deal with it."
Blumenfield, who serves on the City Council's gang committee, said he was hoping the report would be submitted within a month.
--RELATED STORY: With Valley murders on the rise, LA leader pushes for LAPD report on gangs
A big area of concern is the 14 percent increase in Valley homicides from 2015 to 65 last year and a 33 percent increase in robberies.
"Crime has been going up in the last couple of years," Blumenfield said. "It's up in my district and across the Valley."
Murders are up 43 percent from 2014.
Gang-related violent crimes in the Valley increased from 962 in 2015 to 1,023 last year, said LAPD Lt. Boe Adams, head of Gang Impact Team at the Devonshire Community Police Station in Northridge.
And of the Valley homicides last year, 25 were gang-related versus 32 in 2015.
The trend runs counter to how some residents in the city view the Valley.
He discussed the idea with Police Chief Charlie Beck and other high-ranking officers, saying he wanted a written report rather than a verbal one.
"It brings the issue to the forefront of all the key players in the LAPD and the Police Commission," said Blumenfield. "The fact that they have to take a look at this report is positive for us in the West Valley. I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to deal with the issue of crime in the West Valley."
--RELATED STORY: Crime rises in the San Fernando Valley, where robbery and homicide rates outpace LA
Councilman Mitchell Englander, whose district includes Chatsworth, West Hills and Reseda, likes the idea.
"Absolutely, I think this should be done on a regular basis," he said. "We don't know what triggers gang activity in some years compared to others. We certainly know what the root causes are, but we don't know what the upticks come from."
Using the data to spot trends then leads to gang-suppression solutions, he said.
Adams said that some of the gang crime is imported.
"A lot of our gang crime is gang members from other parts of the city who come in and feast on our residents," Adams said.
Lt. Brian Reynolds, head of the Gang Impact Team at the West Valley Community Police Station in Reseda, said his officers monitor gang graffiti to head off possible trouble.
"There are about four active gangs and a number of small ones we track," he said. "It (the crimes) runs the gamut of everything from low-level offenses like drinking in public and hanging out at the park after dark all the way up to homicide."
And he said that his officers are always looking for the public's help to identify both graffiti issues and criminal activity.
"They can call us directly or report issues anonymously through the city's "311" app and also through WeTip or CrimeStoppers," he said.
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