WeHo City to Consider Increasing Security During Holiday Season

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Security Ambassador - Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

West Hollywood City Council will consider increasing the number of Block by Block Security Ambassadors in the City’s business districts during the holiday season to promote enhanced community safety as more residents and visitors patronize the City’s commercial areas. The City Council will also consider reinstating the Entertainment Policing Team Sergeant and Deputy that were reduced in fiscal year 2020-21 due to COVID-19 budget reductions.

According to the city’s staff report in the council agenda for the council meeting on December 20, the increased security will promote community safety in the city’s business district during they holiday season when more residents and visitors patronize WeHo’s commercial areas.

Staff recommendations include the following:
1) Direct the Public Safety Department to increase the number of Block by Block Security Ambassadors in the City’s business districts between the dates of December 21, 2021, and January 3, 2022.

2) Authorize the Director of Finance & Technology Services to allocate $2,000 from budgeted funds in the Special Council Programs account number 100-1-01-00- 531001 for costs associated with the additional Block by Block Security Ambassadors.

3) Reinstate the Entertainment Policing Team Sergeant and Deputy that were reduced during Fiscal Year 2020-21 due to COVID-19 budget reductions at an estimated annual cost moving forward of $601,000.

4) Authorize the Director of Finance and Technology Services to allocate $300,000 from unallocated General Fund reserves to the Public Safety Department for costs associated with the reinstatement of the two Entertainment Policing Team positions for the current fiscal year (January – June 2022).

Agenda item 5.B states that one of the core functions of the City of West Hollywood is to ensure community safety for residents, visitors, and businesses. The City has multiple community safety contracts, including those with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Block by Block for Security Ambassadors, and PacWest for security guards at City facilities.

During the holiday season the number of patrons at the City’s businesses increases as residents and visitors conduct holiday shopping at the City’s retail establishments and
meet friends and family at restaurants and bars in the City.

The report addresses the recent high-profile robberies around the Los Angeles region and the state at high-end boutiques and stores. There have also been a number of incidents in the City of West Hollywood where individuals have been targeted for robberies. West Hollywood residents and businesses have expressed concerns about this public safety issue, as well as what appears to be an increase in violent crimes in the region.

Ensuring the safety of West Hollywood residents, businesses, and visitors is one of the key functions of the City of West Hollywood, reads the Staff Report. With an increase in the number of people visiting the City’s commercial business areas during the holidays and the recent regional robberies in mind, this item directs the Public Safety Department to increase the number of Block by Block Security Ambassadors in the City’s commercial districts during the period from December 21, 2021, through January 3, 2022, in order to provide enhanced community safety. In preparation for this item, staff spoke with Block by Block management and they indicated that they will be able to provide an additional 50 hours of Block by Block Security Ambassador service during the holiday period. This overtime allocation will cost approximately $2,000.

In addition to increased Block by Block Security Ambassador patrols, the West Hollywood Sheriff’s station will also increase patrols in the commercial business areas of the city during the holidays, including, as appropriate, additional foot patrols. These combined efforts will enhance community safety during the holiday period, and also act as a deterrent to individuals who may seek to target West Hollywood businesses, residents, and visitors.

This item also directs staff to reinstate the Entertainment Policing Team Sergeant and Deputy that were reduced during fiscal-year 2020-21 due to COVID-19 related budget reductions. The Entertainment Policing Team works in the City’s entertainment and nightlife areas to address the impacts and needs of those businesses and their patrons. Prior to the fiscal year 2020-21 reductions, the Entertainment Policing Team consisted of six members, including one sergeant and five deputies.

As a part of the fiscal year 2020- 21 budget reductions, one deputy and the sergeant were eliminated from the Team, which currently consists of four deputies. At the time the budget reductions were made, the rationale for reducing the Entertainment Policing Team was that many of the businesses in the City’s entertainment district were closed due to County COVID-19 Health Orders. Most of those businesses have since reopened and the number of patrons in the entertainment district have returned to near normal levels.

The West Hollywood business community has requested that the reductions to the Entertainment Policing Team be reversed and the sergeant and deputy be reinstated.

5.B requests that Public Safety staff reinstate the sergeant and deputy that were cut from the Entertainment Policing Team as soon as possible. The annual cost of these two positions is approximately $600,000. If approved, the soonest the two positions could be filled would be within 30 days; however, it may take longer to fill the positions. This item requests a budget appropriation of $300,000 for the remainder of fiscal year 2021- 22.

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