Neighborhoods’ plans that enlist private patrols usually ‘fizzle out’ says security expert

About 25 years ago, a few neighborhoods in Long Beach were looking to make their already fairly safe neighborhoods safer, so they hired private security companies to supplement the regular LBPD patrols. Call it a second security blanket.

A plan to enlist a private security company is once again afoot, this time it’s a contentious issue, in the city’s affluent Los Cerritos neighborhood.

Platt Security, Inc., based in Signal Hill, has always been a favored firm in town. Founded in 1958 by Bob Platt, a retired LBPD sergeant assigned to the vice detail, the company grew right along with the city, first scoring a contract to provide security for events at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, it picked up similar work with the Long Beach Arena when it opened in 1962, and then with the renovated Long Beach Convention Center in 1994.

Bob Platt was joined by his son Marc, also a retired LBPD officer, in 1992. Marc is the current president of Platt.

In the late 1990s, Platt was hired by the residents of Cerritos Park, a Bixby Knolls neighborhood near Somerset Park (originally called Cerritos Park). It was a nice enough neighborhood, but nice can always be nicer, so the Cerritos Park Association acquired the services of Platt.

Meanwhile, Naples, another low-crime area with residents who could pop for a private firm to turbo-charge the local force, had also signed up with Platt.

The addition of Platt to give protection to the neighborhoods was not a snub of LBPD’s work. At the time of hiring Platt, Cerritos Park Association board member (and later 8th District councilman) Rob Webb, as well as Marc Platt, stressed that the added manpower did not stem from dissatisfaction with city police services. But, said Webb, “you can never have too many eyes and ears on the streets.”

Platt’s security was effective enough, and in the first few months, working with LBPD, it made several arrests, including capturing a car thief less than a block from the scene of the crime.

Both projects faded fairly quickly, however, said Platt’s vice president, Chris Souza.

“Not everyone pays, but everyone benefits,” he said.

That can cause problems among residents. “We did neighborhood work for years, but now we mostly do gated communities like Bixby Hill and apartment or condos with Homeowner Associations” in which payments are built in with HOA fees.

Depending on residents to make bi-weekly or monthly payments can be dicey for security companies.

The job of patrolling neighborhoods tends to “just fizzle out,” Souza said. “It gets expensive—it can cost $15,000 to $20,000 a month for a 24-hour patrol and somebody’s got to be responsible for handling the payments, but sooner or later the payments start coming in late or just stop altogether.”

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.