The crime stats are in for the first quarter of 2012, and crime increased in West Hollywood by 18 percent over the same period last year. The most notable increases were aggravated assaults, residential and vehicle burglaries and petty thefts.
Whatever the reasons, the facts are the facts—Crime exists in West Hollywood. And lots of it. Whether up or down, most residents are blissfully unaware that January, February and March saw 31 robberies, 94 burglaries, 72 assaults, 312 petty thefts and 20 stolen autos, all in a city only 1.8 square miles.
Although Weho still feels relatively safe, after the specifics of certain violent crimes in past months were brought to light, people are more aware of dangers that lurk in our little burg. Folks realize that they can no longer stumble down the sidewalk after a few drinks with their head down, lost in whatever social media app they have open on the screen of their smartphone.
People are walking in groups, looking up, staying in well-lit areas, and generally looking alert. They realize that the bad guys are less likely to target people who are paying attention. We must be our own first line of defense.
But we cannot do it all ourselves. We rely on police, nightclub security, Neighborhood Watch, lighting, alarms, and locks to keep us safe as well. And it is in these categories that we can do better. Without a doubt, West Hollywood has the best equipped, most funded, and involved Sheriff's Station in Los Angeles County.
The city has most recently approved funding for increased saturation of deputies nightly in cars, on foot, and on bikes on the west side. Also, the West Hollywood Station has added a Park Patrol, with the sole responsibility to patrol each of the city's several parks. Residents should see an increased police presence across the entire city.
Police can not be everywhere though. If citizens are looking more alert and the police are increasing their presence, businesses should have a stake in the safety of the community too. After all, businesses are the ones most concerned with the loss of customers and revenue caused by transients who loiter in their doorways, petty thieves, armed robberies occurring around the corner from their establishment or fights going down in front of their pizza shop.
Most of these small businesses cannot afford to employ full-time security to guard their doorways. However, a way exists for businesses to share the costs of security, as well as marketing and streetscape improvements, and it is called a Business Improvement District.
A Business Improvement District or BID is a defined area within which businesses pay an additional fee in order to fund improvements within the district's boundaries. BIDs provide extra services, such as cleaning sidewalks, providing security and marketing the area. A Board of Directors, established by the business owners representing those who pay the assessment, governs the organization responsible for providing these services.
A coalition of business owners on Santa Monica Boulevard launched a petition to establish the BID on March 19, 2012. In general terms, the BID would include all businesses fronting Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny Drive and Holloway Drive. A BID along Santa Monica Blvd would be the third such district in West Hollywood, the Sunset Strip BID being an example.
The Business Improvement District will give businesses more local control and a unified voice, and it also allows business owners to share improvement costs like security and marketing that they otherwise would not be able to afford on their own.
The Sunset Strip BID has been a boon to the Strip, taking a blighted and unsafe stretch of Sunset and turning it into a safe, clean area that attracts shoppers and clubgoers from all over the world. A BID along Santa Monica Blvd could do the same, using their collective dollars and their unified voice to preserve the unique charm that makes the area special, as well as creating a safer and more appealing place for people to spend money.
There is momentum for a Santa Monica Blvd BID right now. We hope that each business along the Boulevard will sign the Petition that is circulating. Residents and patrons should pass the word along to the businesses that we all support the creation of the BID too! Working together with the city, community, and business, we can drop the crime rate again and Keep Weho Safe.
Crime statistics can be found at www.lasd.org. Businesses interested in signing the Petition to establish the BID should contact the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.