LAPD ADJUSTS PRIORITIES DNC'S OVER, FOCUS BACK ON CRIME.
With Y2K and the Democratic National Convention behind them, Los Angeles police will focus full-force on cutting down a recent spike in crime in the city, Police Chief Bernard C. Parks said Wednesday.
``Over the next few months, we will have no . . . distractions other than dealing with crime,'' Parks said during his monthly press briefing.
Crime has increased for the first time in seven years in Los Angeles, with violent crimes surging by 10 percent over the same period last year. The city has had 60 more homicides than at this time last year, a 23 percent increase, Parks said. Most of the spikes have occurred on the city's central-east and southeast sides, he said.
The department's top command staff is to meet Monday to discuss a multiprong plan to try to block the increase, including possibly launching a more visible task force effort in high-crime areas.
In the past year, the department devoted 20,000 officer days to training for the Democratic National Convention and Y2K celebrations, he said.
``That's a lot of officer days off the street,'' Parks said.
City Councilman Joel Wachs, a public-safety committee member, said the department needs to focus on antigang initiatives and community-based policing.
``We've just got to get our focus back to what our priorities are, and our priorities should be to make the neighborhoods of the city of Los Angeles safe,'' Wachs said. ``There's a lot of things that have to be done.''
Department critics have suggested the surge is related to the DNC training and the dismantling of the CRASH antigang units in response to the Rampart police-corruption investigations.
But Parks downplayed the connection.
``Crime is up because we have a spike of criminal activity - particularly violent,'' he said.
Also in Wednesday's briefing, Parks continued to defend and commend the LAPD's actions during the Democratic National Convention last week. And he added another sentiment: Told you so.
Parks lashed out at protesters and civil rights groups who filed a successful lawsuit forcing the city to move barricades.
``Although we were ignored during those court hearings, I think that the immediate feedback is exactly what we said would occur,'' Parks said. ``I think it bore out all of our concerns on Monday night.''
That night, when the rock group Rage Against the Machine played in a parking lot next to Staples Center, thousands of concertgoers became unruly and tried to climb a 12-foot-tall fence separating them from police and the Staples Center.
Parks criticized protest organizers and those who filed the lawsuit against the city, saying that officers Monday night asked them to try to disperse the rowdy crowd - which was hurling cement chunks, bottles and debris over the fence at officers.
Parks, city officials and conventiongoers have praised the often-criticized Police Department, for preventing the mass chaos that some predicted an estimated 50,000 protesters could cause. DNC-related property damage was minimal and police made 194 arrests, compared with 390 arrests made by Philadelphia police during the Republican National Convention two weeks earlier.
Protesters, who called the LAPD's intensive operation ``menacing'' and ``intimidating,'' have said they tried to help disperse the crowd Monday night but that police moved in before they could.
Chris Calhoun, spokesman for the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union, called the lawsuit a victory, and said Wednesday that it likely curbed violence.
``Ensuring that people do have a meaningful free speech option reduces overall tensions and potential problems,'' he said. ``Free speech is something that shouldn't be frustrated - because when it is frustrated, people feel they have to take other kinds of actions.''
Police Chief Bernard C. Parks answers a question at an LAPD press conference Wednesday at Parker Center downtown.
Eric Grigorian/Special to the Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Aug 24, 2000|
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