PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks has been calling the shots at the Santa Monica Police Department for a year and a half but she’s handled a new public park, incoming light rail concerns, and a mass shooting.
The top cop at the $77 million, 206-officer department sat down with members of the press for more than an hour this week. She told the Daily Press her thoughts on Tongva Park, medical marijuana dispensaries and the incoming Expo Light Rail Line.
Expo Light Rail
Seabrooks brushed off concerns that the rail line, slated to open in 2016, would bring with it an unmanageable number of vagrants and criminals. There could be an increase in crimes of opportunity — iPad-snatchings from inattentive passengers sitting near train doors, for example — but her biggest concern is the fact that the tracks will essentially cut the city in half, making it harder for officers to get around.
She’s already begun shifting the locations of beats to prepare for the train.
“Timing is everything and it’s not so much getting around it as it is making sure the resources are where they need to be, on this side and on that side,” she said. “I need to know what the appropriate work-arounds are. That’s why we’re making adjustments in the way we go about business now.”
Colorado Avenue, where the Expo line will run, was once a favored route for police officers heading east to west. They’ll have to adjust, Seabrooks said, but that’s nothing new. Santa Monica Boulevard was the preferred route before Colorado, and perhaps Broadway, which used to be a challenge because it was a one-way street coming west, will be the new route of choice.
While quick to note that she’ll back whatever City Council decides, Seabrooks has opinions on marijuana dispensaries. She served previously as chief of police in Inglewood, a city with two. (So far Santa Monica does not have medical marijuana dispensaries, but City Hall is studying it.)
“When they had robberies, they were particularly violent robberies,” she said. “They either occurred on the premises or adjacent to it. I was actually very gratified to come here and find that we had none.”
She likens dispensaries, which council will consider the allowance of early next year, to other businesses that may not be in Santa Monica.
“I think that everything that is for sale doesn’t need to be for sale here,” she said.
Dispensaries are located in Venice, Mar Vista and West Los Angeles.
“We have people stealing copper wire like crazy,” Seabrooks said.
As copper prices have gone up, so have the number of construction sites getting looted. Thieves are yanking it out of street lamps throughout the city, as well. Most of the copper thefts are happening in the northeast part of the city.
“We’re looking at alternatives to see if we can put a stop to it,” she said. “We made three arrests, I believe. But that didn’t stop the problem. So we know that the span of the investigation has to be broadened.”
There’s also been a recent rash of commercial smash and grabs, she said. The thief breaks a storefront window and steals the cash register. Many of them have occurred on Montana Avenue and Main Street or just over the border in West Los Angeles. Seabrooks thinks it’s probably the same suspect.
As it gets darker earlier these types of crimes increase, she said.
Early on, Seabrooks questioned the 3-12 schedule, during which police work three days a week for 12 hours and an extra shift each month to make up the difference. The department is studying the impacts of the schedule but it’s not yet ready for publication.
“At the end of the day … I think a 3-12 schedule, if we woke up at work, and we worked just 12 and a half hours, and we went to sleep from work, and there was no other life on either side of that, I probably wouldn’t have as much of an issue,” she said.
In September, City Hall added 6.2 acres of public land for Seabrooks to worry about with the opening of Tongva Park.
“When I saw it, I had two reactions,” she said. “I had the reaction of, ‘Oh my God that is a beautiful park.’ Then I had the chief’s reaction: ‘Oh my God, really?’”
When the park was in the design phase, former Police Chief Tim Jackman raised some concerns about its rolling hills and dense vegetation that could block sightlines, creating perfect hiding places for illegal activity.
The park has been no more an issue than anywhere else in the city thus far, Seabrooks said. She is considering adding Segways or a similar mode of transit that would allow officers to get on a higher platform and see more of the park.
“Our front yard in Genser Square, our front yard in Tongva Park and, quite frankly, our front yard in Palisades Park is doing pretty well,” she said.