PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — Four specialty units of the Santa Monica Police Department will spend 90 days working in concert to curb a recent rise in nonviolent crime, officials say.
The Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) team, the Crime Impact Team, gang detectives and officers dedicated to the Third Street Promenade will saturate Downtown in response to a spate of burglaries that has shot the crime rate up 12 percent in comparison to this time last year and 5 percent in the last five months, said Sgt. Richard Lewis, spokesperson for the Santa Monica Police Department.
The goal is to keep the cops on the street around the clock to act as a deterrent. Recent statistics show that burglary of motor vehicles has gone up 24 percent and residential burglaries are up 46 percent from 236 in 2011 to 345 thus far this year.
On the positive side, violent crime is down.
“We want a constant presence to say, ‘Don’t commit crime here,’” Lewis said.
The SMPD is also pulling in its civilian forces, such as the park rangers and harbor patrol, to help where they can.
Members of the four units were chosen because they are more flexible than patrol officers and can be redeployed with greater ease without disrupting normal policing. They also have special skill sets that will help with aspects of the crime increase, Lewis. For one, much of the increase is centered in the Downtown area, which is the regular stomping ground for the Third Street Promenade officers and HLP team.
The HLP team specializes in getting homeless people connected with services available to the city, an expertise that service providers like John Maceri, the CEO of OPCC, have come to value.
“If you look at it holistically, the HLP team provides a critical component in our continuum of services,” Maceri said.
Although gang activity has been low, gang-related graffiti has popped up in the area, which the gang detectives could help with, Lewis said.
The department attributes part of the increase in crime to the release of inmates from the Los Angeles County jail system.
County officials had to make room for convicts coming in from state prisons as part of a court-mandate to relieve overcrowding in those facilities. That means low-level criminals are being released before their sentences are complete and, some allege, with little oversight.
Marshaling resources like this will have an impact on the way the community interacts with the officers on the special units, who will not be as available for community meetings and other extra duties during the three-month stretch.