By Jessica Cribbs, Burbank Mon
Special to myBurbank.com
There are many things to admire about the City of Burbank, and on the top of that list for me, is the way the entire community comes together when there are obvious concerns for the safety of its residents.
On Wednesday morning, our Mayor, Vice-Mayor, Chief of Police and his staff, set aside several hours to meet with the residents, address a common concern with safety inside Burbank and answer questions from the general public. All of this was orchestrated from an email sent by Ashley Erickson, president of the Magnolia Park Merchants Association and organizer of our well-known, Ladies’ Night Out. But, more importantly…she’s a parent raising her children in Burbank.
As am I.
It’s unavoidable to notice a recent rise in criminal activity inside our ‘bubble.’ The truth is, we’re a very large ‘small town‘ inside an area of the second largest city of the U.S. and we are not exempt from anything.
““There’s a lot going on in society right now and we mirror what’s going on in society.”
says Chief of Police, Scott LaChasse.
He’s not wrong. Criminal activity and mental health issues are currently plaguing our nation and from the smallest to the biggest cities, the news will show us more terrifying information than we can handle.
A couple of weeks ago, I started work on a piece for my site, BurbankMom.com asking if Burbank really is a great place to raise a family right now. My answer is yes. Absolutely. (You can read that here.) But any smart resident knows, there will always be criminal activity to some degree.
So, what’s going on and what can we do?
What was discussed in the meeting Wednesday was exactly what I knew would be discussed and addressed. To name a few issues, the expansion of the city, rise in gang activity, AB109, Prop 47, homelessness, neighborhood watches, our community effort, Student Resource Officers, a decline in qualified candidates to fill our vacant spots on the police force and the budget.
Currently, our police department is down 11 officers. This absolutely creates a challenge in such things as designating a specialized task force to gangs and the lack of SRO’s in our schools. It also has residents wondering how areas such as the new Ikea, The Talaria project with Whole Foods and Walmart will be safeguarded, as all of these areas will be filling with new residents and visitors to Burbank. If we’re short on patrol officers now, how will that be affected?
Having said that, our Police Department is working day and night with the resources they have to combat the ‘uptick’ in criminal activity. Their response time for an emergency call is better than the cities around us, and they are working overtime to make sure they have the best coverage of the city they can. Not to mention, making arrests within 12-24 hours on some of the most recent events that have the residents wondering what’s going on.
So, how do we get officers to fill the vacant spots?
Well, this is a very difficult task. According to the BPD, about 700 people have applied in recent months to the department. Out of those 700, only about half show up to take the written test. Out of that, only around 90 pass the test and then only 60 pass the physical test. After all of this, an oral interview is conducted and roughly 30 people will move on. Of those 30 people, they hope for 2 to pass the background checks.
Lieutenant Eric Deroian says “We’re really critical. We might end up with 2 folks who seem mature enough to become officers. Now they go to the academy and have to pass after 6 months. We want to be fully staffed.. we really, really do. We’re trying to get up to full staff. We’re picky..we don’t want to settle…we don’t want to lower our standards just to fill spots.”
I can appreciate that, absolutely. But, this will take time to get to where we need to be. And it may be a hard waiting period.
Why do we only have one SRO designated to our schools?
A School Resource Officer is vital to not only the safety of our public schools, but also for the relationship building for our community. An SRO is there to patrol the campus, yes, but more importantly, guide our students into good choices, let them know the police are there for them, not against them, and to keep tabs on any gang/drug related activity before it happens. Preventing crimes as well as preventing kids from being pulled into gang activity will help prevent the selling of drugs and gang activity!
The relationship here is key. We currently have one SRO for our three middle and three high schools. They also help at the private high schools when necessary. A few years ago, we had 6. We had one officer at each of those locations and this is ideal. There is no one disputing this fact. Everyone is in agreement that we need more SRO’s. So, what happened?
Mayor Frutos explained that the city had received an opportunity for a matching grant to cover this necessity. They asked our BUSD to match the funding, but for whatever reason at the time, it was not matched and the funds weren’t there. So, we lost our SRO’s.
Each SRO costs the city around $146,000 with payroll and benefits. We need 6 officers and this is something I’d like to see happen sooner than later. A conversation with our BUSD is also in order, as there was no representation at the meeting from this side.
Everyone at the meeting is in agreement that we need more SRO’s…I will stress that again.
Chief LaChasse acknowledges that even if we have the bodies to man the schools with more SRO’s, it takes officers off of the street for our foot patrol in the city. So, what do we do?
The Chief also said, “What we’re trying to do is prevent crime…it’s easier to prevent than it is to arrest and head an investigation.”
So, maybe another SRO is a wise investment at this time in the case of prevention?
The truth is, this is all going to take some time. And in the meantime, we have a responsibility as a community to support our police department by creating more neighborhood watches an being responsible with our own belongings.
The Burbank PD will support any effort you make in creating a Neighborhood Watch in your area. One person on the block can be designated as captain, and our PD will communicate directly to that captain with information they need to share. It’s vital to know your neighbors and know when they’re home and what vehicles they drive.
If you are interested in starting a Watch in your area, contact officer Josh Kendrick at 818-238-3223. The PD will come to you and meet with your group any time they can.
We have to work together.
We also have to be responsible with our own belongings. Lock your cars and your homes, do not leave valuables in your vehicles, know your surroundings and try to stay alert when leaving and entering public places. “Property crime is our largest crime in Burbank…shoplifting. theft from motor vehicles.” says Captain Cremins.
And, really… if you see something, say something!
Chief LaChasse says, “Don’t ever be afraid that you’re going to burden us… just call.” But he also acknowledges, “Were not as perfect as we’d like to be.”
Burbank, we are in this together. Our Burbank Police Department is re-building, implementing the newest technology is doing the best they can at the moment. They acknowledge the need for change as our society changes.
And they also acknowledge you…the community.
There were all kinds of opinions and insight brought to the meeting on Wednesday and everyone was heard and acknowledged. Thank you City Council and Burbank PD for taking the time.
Now, community…let’s do what we can to help each other too.
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