Police say fear, COVID-19 frustrations and rise in gang activity have led to uptick in crime in West, Central Long Beach

A “snitches get stitches” culture, COVID-19 frustrations, and an increase in gang activity are to blame for a rise in crime in the West and Central Long Beach, police said during a virtual town hall on Tuesday.

“The only way this is going to stop: it’s going to need to come from the neighborhood and the families,” Jeffrey Liberman, the south division commander for the Long Beach Police Department, said during the town hall.

Police and city leaders talked about finding solutions. But while some residents expressed interest in cooperating with police, there was a sense of mistrust, with some participants asking if victims of crime could be handed off to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We don’t care about a person’s immigration status,” West Division Commander Mel McGuire said, adding that they only cooperate with ICE when there are criminal warrants for the suspects in custody. If someone is a victim, police want to speak to them, he said. Officers who speak different languages can also be made available, he said.

Fear of retaliation within the community—“snitches get stitches”—serves as another barrier, police said. Recognizing these fears, police offered ways residents could help while remaining anonymous, such as emailing photos and videos of crimes or calling their non-emergency tip hotline.

Some next steps include the police working with the community through a “team effort” and strengthened communication. Police hope to deter crime such as public drug use, loitering and violence outside of liquor stores by working with store owners to install gates, more lighting and cameras, McGuire said.

Police attribute some of the uptick in crime—particularly shootings—to the pandemic and increase in gang activity, which has been a historical problem in those areas.

Liberman said property crime in particular has risen, specifically pointing to garage burglaries and auto theft. He said the department is “flooding the zone with officers,” but because of the new zero-dollar bail rule, those released repeat stealing cars within the same week, Liberman said.

Residents asked about slower response times between districts or neighborhoods. Liberman said response to calls is dependent on priority levels of other calls—such as if there are other life-threatening ones—or population density.

City leaders organized Tuesday’s town hall following recent protests against violence, especially in the Washington neighborhood.

To submit crime footage, email [email protected] for the South Division and [email protected] for the West). You may also call 562-435-6711 for non-emergency calls and 911 for emergency calls. Click here to find out which district you live in.

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Crystal Niebla is the West Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with the Post. If you want to support Crystal's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at lbpost.com/support.
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