LAPD to Zoom In on Jordan Downs Crime

The mayor announces a plan to fight gangs at the housing project with cameras, more officers.

By Lynn Doan
Times Staff Writer

March 31, 2006

Responding to a spate of gang violence at Los Angeles’ Jordan Downs housing project, city officials are launching an unusual program that links surveillance cameras to stepped-up police patrols, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Thursday.

Once operational next month, at least 12 cameras will feed live images to nearby patrol cars 24 hours a day; 10 police officers newly assigned to the Jordan Downs area will monitor those video feeds and respond if they observe crimes in progress or suspicious activity.

The action comes after a series of public safety meetings among city officials, Jordan Downs residents and representatives of the U.S. attorney’s office. At those meetings, residents pleaded for help.

“We’re sitting in a community where the people feel alone,” Villaraigosa said. “They feel put upon and victimized.”

Pointing to two boys pressing their faces against a fence that separated them from the mayor’s entourage, Villaraigosa added, “We’re here because you are important to us.”

The Police Department reported 19 gang-related shootings and seven homicides around Jordan Downs between Dec. 31 and Jan. 31. Clashes between two rival gangs resulted in five killings in December alone, said Capt. Richard Meraz of the LAPD’s Southeast Division station.

“That’s not acceptable here. That’s not acceptable anywhere,” said City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who has been meeting weekly with residents.

Funding for the program at the Jordan Downs housing project in Watts comes from a variety of sources.

The city supplied the additional police officers, while the U.S. attorney’s office secured $600,000 in federal grants for the efforts. Motorola donated $1.2 million.

In addition to combating crime in Jordan Downs, officials are attempting to bolster services available to residents there. Chief Assistant U.S. Atty. George Cardona said he was trying to consolidate nonprofit agencies that serve Jordan Downs into one area of the neighborhood — a one-stop shop for residents looking for child care and employment resources.

Despite the fanfare of the mayoral news conference, the announcements were met with indifference by some Jordan Downs residents. One group stood with arms folded as the mayor spoke.

Wearing a blue sweatshirt that read: “Gangsta Foe Life!!” and calling himself “Pirate,” Charles Lewis introduced himself to the mayor before the press conference and urged him to bring more jobs and after-school programs to the area.

“I don’t care about the cameras,” he said. “When our kids get out of school, what do they have to come home to?”

Unimpressed by Villaraigosa’s plans, Lewis called the mayor “whatever your name is” and insisted that the community’s problems were rooted in unemployment.

“If you’re going to deal with it, deal with it the right way,” he said. “Bring us some jobs.”

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