A lockdown at Grant Elementary School on October 23 prompted parents from the school to organize a town hall meeting earlier this month to discuss increased incidents of crime in their neighborhood and possible solutions with City police and members of the City Council.
Captain Alex Padilla told the crowd of primarily Sunset Park residents that most crime is “opportunity crime,” such as the crime that caused the school to be locked down. In this instance, someone left their car running and two guys tried to steal it. “The police tried to pull them over when they tried to flee, and they crashed.” They then tried to flee on foot near the school. When school officials became aware of the police activity near the school “they locked down the school” to keep the kids safe without a call ordering them to do so from police. In response to concerns from the community about the lockdown, Padilla emphasized, “The school leadership did the right thing” even though the lockdown was upsetting to the community.
Padilla also mentioned police officials meet monthly with the school superintendent, “and we talk about things affecting the community as it relates to our schools,” including lockdowns.
A longtime Sunset Park resident stated that even though “statistics are showing crime going down, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. My home has been robbed and my neighbor had her car broken into. I feel more anxious than I used to.”
Another resident complained that the police response is more “reactive” than “proactive.” She also noted there are problems with receiving police communications because the “website is out-of-date.”
Padilla tried to reassure the residents that his department is working on updating its website and trying to improve its relationship with the community by attending “neighborhood watch meetings, giving crime presentations” and patrolling the streets.
There was also a request from several speakers for increased police presence. One person asked, “What does it take to get more police officers, more patrols…to get an adequate police presence?”
Mayor Richard Bloom concluded the meeting by stating, “This is an opportunistic time for us to have this meeting. There are lots of changes happening in Santa Monica. We have a new city manager, in a couple of weeks we’ll have a new police chief and we have a new planning director. All of these changes are an opportunity to rethink and retool some of the ways we do things in our City.” Added Bloom, the new chief “will try to fine-tune and better understand our approach to community-based policing.”