The police department is launching a new pilot program in the Washington neighborhood near Downtown that will put officers on streets, on foot, to provide more one-on-one interactions with residents.
The Neighborhood Walks program is in response to a spike in gun violence and overall crime over the last year, and it’s an opportunity to combat mistrust in law enforcement by some, officials said.
“We’re as frustrated as anybody else with the level of violence that happens in this specific neighborhood,” LBPD Chief Robert Luna said in a video of the program launch outside of Washington Middle School on Friday.
“It’s funny because you hear people talk negatively about the police, but yet, when I go to different neighborhoods around the city, what do people ask me for? They say, ‘We want to interact more with your officers.'”
Eight officers will patrol an area from the Los Angeles River to Long Beach Boulevard and Anaheim Street to Pacific Coast Highway. The officers will walk the neighborhood in the afternoon and evening hours, seven days a week, police said. The program will run through May 1.
The officers will serve as a resource to help address community concerns and connect people with resources, officials said. These resources may include the city’s health department, public works, mental health services and nonprofits, said Arantxa Chavarria, an LBPD spokesperson.
Officers will also participate in and organize activities and meetings for the neighborhood. While the specifics of these activities and meetings are not set at this time, Chavarria said that the LBPD will announce those updates on their social media platforms.
“It’s very important that we start with relationships,” Dr. Roshann Williams, Principal of Washington Middle School, said in the video from Friday.
She said that more positive interactions with officers won’t eliminate crime, but she believes it can “lower it to some degree.”
The city’s health department continues to be in its early stages of launching a separate crime-prevention pilot program this year targeted in the Washington neighborhood, which has long endured more crime than most other areas of the city. While Neighborhood Walks is a police program, Ana Lopez, the health department’s community impact division officer, said via email that it will be supporting the LBPD’s efforts through her programming.
In response to an uptick in crime, the City Council also expects to hear a study from the police department later this month explaining the surge, which included gun violence reaching levels not seen in years.
For now, the LBPD and other partners in Neighborhood Walks remain hopeful.
“I would like to be sitting here months from now saying that we all … collectively changed this neighborhood,” Luna said.