The month of June marks the start of the summer months and many organized events I’m especially proud of. Programs and events our Department is involved in go a long way in helping the youth in our City steer clear of gangs and gang violence. One of these programs, which has been recognized nationally for its effectiveness, is Summer Night Lights. Now in its sixth year, the Summer Night Lights Program is an example of collaboration and community policing at its finest. Thirty-two parks in some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods throughout the City will remain open after dark, providing a safe haven for families and strengthening the bond between us and our communities. I urge you to get involved and be an active participant in the program whenever possible. It’s yet another opportunity for you to be a positive influence on our youth.
The fourth annual Safe Summer Tip-Off Youth Safety Festival and Basketball Event is being held at the USC Galen Center on Saturday June 29th. Our Department’s undefeated team proudly challenges LAFD in a “friendly” game of basketball. Interactive displays and demonstrations by both Departments, a free BBQ lunch and celebrity appearances will all lead up to the big game. We have beaten the Fire Department in every year of this game’s existence and I expect more of the same this year. But the real winner of this event is the community so come on out and bring the family.
Devonshire Division began as nothing more than a storefront station in a shopping center in 1968 before formally opening the doors of its permanent site in 1973. It encompasses the communities of Granada Hills, Northridge, Porter Ranch, Chatsworth and part of North Hills. At nearly 54 square miles, Devonshire is among the largest of the Department’s geographical areas and provides dedicated service to nearly 250,000 residents of Los Angeles.
The Division is comprised of six basic cars, each of which represents culturally diverse segments of the community that sponsor in excess of 50 Neighborhood Watch groups. Devonshire has a long-standing reputation of community involvement, incorporating several dynamic groups, including Supporters of Law Enforcement in Devonshire (SOLID), the Cadet Program, Police Activity League Supporters (PALS), and the Jeopardy Program.
Devonshire Division has a storied history of memorable events. Sadly among the most noteworthy events have been tragic and unforgettable: the Northridge Earthquake (1994), the Jewish Community Center shooting (1999), the Metrolink railway collision (2008), and the Sesnon Fire (2008).
Regrettably, two Devonshire officers have died in the line of duty. On February 12, 1976, Officer Zlatko Sintic, 33 years old, and a nine year veteran, was shot to death while responding to an early morning alarm call at a McDonald’s restaurant, mere blocks from the police station. The suspect remained barricaded for several hours before taking his own life.
On February 22, 1994, Officer Christy Hamilton, a 45 year-old probationary officer, responded to a domestic disturbance at a Granada Hills residence. As she exited the police vehicle, she was shot by a troubled teen who moments earlier, killed his step-father. The suspect ultimately took his own life. A memorial honoring the memory of these two slain heroes stands in the station foyer.
Ask the Chief
Several officers have asked me why I plan to donate the proceeds from my appearance on “Southland” to Homeboy Industries. This is a valid question and I appreciate your inquiries regarding my stance on gangs and gang crime. Although you may not agree with my decision, it is important to me that you understand where I’m coming from.
Keep in mind; we are all in the business of keeping this City safe. Over the years our crime statistics have decreased at an unprecedented rate. This is not by happenstance, nor did it occur overnight. The end of this year’s first quarter, our total gang crimes were down by 20.5 percent from 986 to 784 and gang related homicides dropped 29.3 percent from 41 to 29. I would be remiss if I did not thank you and recognize each of the hard working officers for your dedication and being a part of the total solution to gang violence. It is your work I’m most proud of. I thank you for your commitment and collective efforts in driving crime down to historic lows and commend you for the innovative methods in which you continue to maintain this great feat.
My stance on gang crime has always been an “all hands on deck” approach to tackle the problem and find solutions that actually work. That total solution involves prevention to stop the flow of our youth into gangs, intervention to rescue those already involved, suppression to deter criminal acts through effective law enforcement and re-entry to provide an alternative future to gang members returning from incarceration. I have always believed it is everyone’s job to make a difference. We cannot be successful on our own nor can we arrest our way out of the gang crime problem. We need the community to ‘own’ the problem and to be actively involved in the solution. It means giving people a second chance and an opportunity to make a difference. I have seen first-hand and have come to value the work of interventionists as an asset in reducing incidents of retaliatory shootings and murders in some of the most violent areas of the City. Yes, police officers and interventionists clearly have different ideas and roles, but we must recognize we do share the same common goals; reducing violent crime and saving lives.
Intervention programs such as Homeboy Industries are designed to help gang members turn their lives around. Not all succeed, but every innocent life saved from a senseless killing or retaliatory shooting makes all the difference in keeping our communities safe. This was the reasoning behind my decision to donate my check to Homeboy Industries. It is my hope and expectation that you also recognize there is great value to working together with people from all walks of life to achieve one common goal. I reaffirm what I have always believed in; Cops Count, Character Counts and the Community Counts.
As always, I welcome your emails and look forward to working with you soon.