Community crime prevention members Michael Cveyich (right) and Peter Picanso man the information booth on the Third Street Promenade Monday. The booth serves as a shoplifting deterrent and volunteers provide shoppers with tips on how to protect themselves from thieves. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — As holiday shopping crowds have swarmed the Third Street Promenade in recent weeks, the Santa Monica Police Department has beefed up its Downtown presence, thanks in part to a handful of volunteers.

Graduates of the department’s “citizens academy” have been staffing an information booth on the promenade since Thanksgiving. While their official task is to hand out pamphlets on safety, they also act as a deterrent to would-be shoplifters.

“That’s a great byproduct. If people are coming down there to commit criminal acts and see that there’s additional Santa Monica Police Department affiliates, then maybe that’ll deter it,” said Sgt. Jay Trisler, a spokesman for the SMPD.

While the volunteers, who are overseen by the department’s community relations division, don’t have any law enforcement authority, Trisler said there’s been “positive feedback” from merchants on the promenade who have noticed the booth.

At cosmetics retailer Sephora, store manager Kristina Conrad said shoplifting is a constant problem that the police department volunteers have helped to curb.

“When people see that there’s a police booth they’re less likely to come in and potentially shop lift,” she said.

There’s no set schedule for the booth, which will be on the promenade off and on through December. So far, the booth has been set up in several locations on the 1200 block and the 1400 block of Third Street, Trisler said.

“For us, it’s about educating the public, and even educating the criminals that are out there,” he said.

Jeffrey Glaser, the neighborhood resources officer in charge of Downtown, agreed the volunteers can help to limit crime.

“If a would-be suspect sees them out there they might think twice,” he said.

But the volunteers, are just one aspect of the department’s increased focus on Downtown during the holiday season, he added.

More officers have been assigned to the area in this month in an attempt to crack down during a period when crime is typically higher than normal. Two goals were to limit bike thefts and car break-ins, which had been on the increase, he said.

“It is making an impact compared to what we were trending for the rest of the year,” Glaser said.

At Sephora, Conrad said she’s noticed the increased officer presence.

SMPD officers regularly conduct store “walkthroughs,” she said, adding that “they’ve really increased the frequency this month.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *