At a regular West Hollywood City Council meeting on Monday, March 21, 2021, the City Council tabled Item 4.C. The item is a WeHo public safety update that reports on crime activities in the past six months and provides additional direction on public safety priorities and resources. However, City Staff recommended the item be moved to a future council meeting.
“There is a lot of confusion amongst the community about that item,” said City Manager David Wilson. “That item was received in final update. I think there is confusion on actions being take tonight, or not being taken tonight. Additionally, there is information that needs to be clarified by Staff in the staff report itself in some of the documents that have been provided, so we want to provide those clarifications and more context at a future meeting for further discussion.”
Council member Lindsey Horvath said the public would be confused if the council didn’t discuss the item.
Council Member John D’Amico agreed, saying it made sense to begin the discussion and to be guided around the updated clarifications. “I think people want to know about some of the reported crime statistics, which shouldn’t be that confusing. They are statistics. They are provided by the LASD. We could talk about them. If I was a resident, I would be concerned if we are not having this conversation. I would wonder what we are not talking about.”
Council member John Erickson shared the City Manager’s concerns, stating he too found inaccuracies in the report and that there is confusion amongst the public as well.
Mayor Pro-Tem Sepi Shyne also agreed that the update was very confusing. “Is it an update or is it asking for direction? I don’t think there is enough info for direction quite frankly.”
Mayor Lauren Meister said she was OK with leaving the item on the agenda. She said she thought it would be helpful to have the discussion on the update, so if questions came up, the council ask staff to bring back whatever it is that needed more answers.
“But there are inaccuracies,” said council member Erickson. “We can have the discussion. All I’m saying is that there are inaccuracies in the report and therefore the public is misinformed because we’re reading it wrong… We need to make sure everything is accurate and the numbers are reflected and that’s not what’s on this report.”
Mayor Meister asked the City Manager if the data in the tables were incorrect.
The City Manager said there was additional information that was provided to the council and to the public that needs to be reviewed closer that’s separate from the report itself. “We want to go back and look at that information,” he said. “I think that can be provided with more context, greater context. I think we can do that in a better way in a future meeting, whether it’s the next meeting or sometime later. Part of the concern is that there is this expectation that this was going to be a discussion and we would provide direction about public safety. This is our regular Public Safety update where we talk about the past and go over the past six months. It’s not really a discussion about the future. We’ve had a lot of discussion about community safety and developing a plan. It just seems to be that the expectation is that this is that discussion and this is not. This is really a discussion about what’s happened in the past six months.”
Council member D’Amico said there have been lots of news reports about WeHo public safety and community safety and that the discussion is worth having. “I think there are a lot of unanswered questions on many levels about what it is we’re doing, the five of us that have been elected,” he said. “I understand that non-elected sworn officers are doing a lot. Kristen is doing plenty. The Public Safety Commission has weighed in several times in several ways, but I think, as the elected member of this city council, that there are questions about what we’re doing; how we are understanding the last six months in the last year or last several years. I’m willing to not have this conversation now, but I’m interested in how the city will present how the city will have an opportunity to address this.”
John Erickson said he believed the having that discussion at the next council meeting would be more effective because that meeting will an in-person meeting.
Mayor Meister agreed to postpone the update and asked the city manager to address the recent news reports on the rise in crime in West Hollywood along with the numbers that everyone is concerned about in his City Manager’s report.
The agenda passed with D’Amico and Horvath voting no due to the removal of Item 5.C.
During council member comments, Mayor Meister addressed several news reports on the West Hollywood Public Safety Commission meeting on Monday, March 14, 2022, where the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department reported that Part One crimes in West Hollywood were up 137 percent in February 2022, compared to February 2021.
In his comments, City Manager Wilson stated that while it is technically accurate that crime in West Hollywood went up 137 percent, the significant increase in crime from 2021 to 2022 is largely due to COVID-19 pandemic-related State and County health orders during those two years, which created emergency policies that forced certain business closures and safer at home recommendations.
These emergency policies also had a significant impact on crime. Part One crime incidents in the early part of the pandemic (March 2020 and April 2020) were reported as the lowest in the City’s history. This trend of lower crime continued during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
Wilson added that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (before 2020), the city averaged 180 to 220 Part One crime incidents monthly, which is a more appropriate baseline for a long-view comparison–one that will be in the next WeHo public safety update and discussed at a future city council meeting.