Following an incident earlier this month which resulted in the vandalism and looting of some Downtown businesses, the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) held a meeting with Downtown stakeholders Wednesday to prepare for what they believe could be a similar situation this Friday.

On July 9, police say what was estimated to be some 100 teenagers coordinated with each other via social media to congregate at the Pike at Rainbow Harbor. The group was first noticed by Pike security as they began to move around the complex, vandalizing and stealing as they moved about.

The LBPD were then contacted and they issued multiple citations while making one arrest. Since it was discovered the group members used the Metro Blue Line for transit, it is assumed that the group was not local. As the LBPD began to further investigate, they believe a “part two” of sorts is being planned online for this Friday.

Police say this second organization of teenagers has nothing to do with Friday’s peaceful planned gathering in front of the court house to protest the Trayvon Martin verdict.

“We want people to come down to Long Beach to enjoy the city–that is our root goal,” said LBPD’s Sgt. Aaron Eaton. “We also encourage those who want to gather or protest or exercise their First Amendment rights. However, for those individuals that decide to partake in any criminal activity–such as stealing from or vandalizing our community–then the Long Beach Police Department is going to act appropriately and deal with those situations.”

Eaton emphasized that while the two gatherings are expected to be happening Downtown simultaneously, LBPD plans on protecting those who are gathering legally as much as possible to avoid a situation similar to the one Tuesday evening in Hollywood. Flash mobs of large groups of teenagers descended onto the tourist-driven Hollywood and Highland complex, knocking down people, breaking windows and stealing merchandise and cash registers. Eleven juveniles and one 18-year-old were arrested in that incident.

“We are preparing for any eventual incident like the gathering in Hollywood and the past incident in Long Beach,” said Eaton. “What we need is the public telling us when a group of individuals looks like they are preparing or engaging in behaviors that lead people to believe they are going to [commit a crime]. See something, say something.”

Given they are using the Blue Line as their form of transportation, the LBPD has been working with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department to ensure that large gatherings along the trains are carefully watched.

“Patrol has been beefed up since the Martin verdict has been released,” said Commander John Clark of the L.A. Sheriff’s Transportation Bureau. “Whether any event has to do with the Martin case or not, the Sheriff’s Department will have a more active presence along all lines, including the Blue Line, and at platforms.”

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