SMPD badge. (Image courtesy City of Santa Monica)

BEAT 2 — The Santa Monica Police Department’s Beat 2 is an area of juxtapositions. Heavily residential in population, it also contains two of the city’s busiest business streets (Pico and Lincoln). It has the longest border with L.A., increasing the number of transients moving through neighborhoods populated by longtime and deeply rooted families. So it’s fitting that its community policing partnership contains the longest serving and most recent additions to the unit.
Each of the City’s four designated “beats” has a civilian Crime Prevention Coordinator and a Neighborhood Resource Officer. In Beat 2 NRO Erik Milosevich has been with the unit for a few months and his partner Lead CPC Lauralee Asch has 18 years of experience on the job.
“Someone talked me into being in parking enforcement and I lasted 30 days before I requested a transfer,” said Asch of her introduction to the department. She spent several years working in another capacity at the department before becoming a CPC. “I have now been doing this for 18 years. It’s incredibly satisfying because I live, work and try to play in the city. I feel I have a vested interest in the community. Everyone I meet in my job ends up becoming a friend and neighbor. I get an incredible sense of satisfaction about making my city better, about helping my department. The work is amazing. I have a lot of ability to be a creative problem solver and every day is different.”
NRO Milosevich joined the unit at the start of the summer. He said he has had a warm welcome to the beat, joining just in time to participate in several summer block parties. “The neighbors are very old school, very cohesive,” he said. “They know each other, their families have grown up together. It’s a small town within the big city and it’s been great for me to meet the people in that atmosphere.”
He said his personal style of policing always lent itself to the community approach and he applied for the assignment because it felt like an extension of what he was already doing.
“Ever since this position was created, I thought it was a good fit for me,” he said. “I like dealing with the community, getting to know people and building relationships. I enjoy the city and I have personal relationships, in and out of uniform, with the people in my community.”
He said the assignment provides a sense of job satisfaction.
“As the NRO I’m able to expand on that and really reach out to the community and it’s just nice to be able to work with someone and make a positive difference in their lives. On patrol, you don’t always have the time, you’re putting out little fires as you go along but here you can spend more time, reach out to more resources and make a more positive impact.”
Beat 2 runs from the City’s southern border on Dewey St to Pico Blvd and from its eastern border on Bundy to Second Street. The beat shares some similarities with other residential areas, including a share of the City’s residential burglaries and vehicle break-ins. However, Beat 2 has a uniquely long border with Venice creating some site-specific challenges.
Milosevich said he said he has already begun meeting with LAPD officers who patrol the bordering Venice area to discuss ways to handle criminals who straddle the border and take advantage of jurisdictional differences.
“I’m starting to see I want to have a better relationship with LAPD,” he said. “I want to start working together with them. We share a border and we share some of the same problems and the suspects know that too,” he said. “They are playing the border, they know the LA laws and the Santa Monica laws.”
While some of the border incidents are related to homelessness, Milo said it was unfair to classify the majority of the area’s transient population as criminals or suspects.
“I don’t feel that way,” he said. “They are good citizens, good people with good values, they just happen to be homeless.”
He said the solution to the problems would be to clamp down on the criminal element, regardless of their housing status. That will likely happen through leveraging the strong neighborhood connections to help everyone, including LAPD, find solutions.
Asch said the team spends a lot of time in the neighborhood, attending community meetings and providing advice. She said they focus on trying to preempt crime by advising residents and businesses of potentially dangerous behavior. She said many residents till leave valuables in plain sight while they park their car or leave doors to their home open.
“The suspects are bold and they are so fast,” she said. “It’s a constant process of educating people and overcoming apathy. A great majority of home burglaries occur when there is an unlocked or improperly locked windows or doors. (Criminals) go for the path of least resistance. They look at houses until they find a house with an open window.”
She said the department’s free security surveys are an underused resource for residents. The CPC and NRO will come to a business or residence and give them advice on security. While some residents utilize the service after becoming the victim of a crime, she said more people could benefit if they signed up before being robbed.
“It’s a free service that our city officers,” she said. “We give you a written list of deficiencies, ideas, ways to improve safety and security. It’s an amazing service and other departments don’t have the resources to offer an hour in your home by a police person but we do and we wish more people would take advantage of it before hand.”
She said the unit has other services to offer including the annual Community Police Academy. The program brings 20 people at a time through a program that provides education on the department’s practices and policies. While the department has ongoing programs, like the security surveys academies, they also offer one-time events such as the upcoming free self-defense class or a drug take back program.
On Saturday, Sept. 27, the department will accept any prescription drugs at the public safety building, 333 Olympic Drive, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The program is designed to keep unused drugs out of the wrong hands and out of local drains. Officers said they will accept prescription drugs, no-questions-asked, but they will not accept syringes or illegal narcotics.
Asch said she feels strongly about the value of the work done by the beat officers.
“I’m a nut for this city, people don’t get it. It’s so satisfying to be able to really make a difference,” she said. “Cops all over the world, they get involved to make a difference and sometimes the machine and system beat you down, but this department makes a difference, this unit makes a difference in people’s lives.”
matt@www.smdp.com

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