The trendy city of West Hollywood voted to cut funding to law enforcement, a move that comes at a time when crime in the greater Los Angeles area has dramatically increased, imperiling the safety of residents who are easy prey for violent criminals.
In a narrow 3-2 vote, the West Hollywood City Council approved the budget for the next two fiscal years that will remove up to five Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies from the contingent that patrols the city which is the home of the famous Sunset Strip.
While chopping money for police, the body authorized an additional $14,000 in funding to a Russian Arts festival as well as redirecting funds to the unarmed “security ambassadors” of the city’s Block by Block program.
The decision didn’t sit well with WeHo Mayor Lauren Meister who was one of the two dissenters opposing the cutback in law enforcement funding despite a 137 percent increase in crime this year.
“Most of the residents and businesses I have heard from are opposed to cutting the Sheriff’s budget,” the mayor said in a statement to Fox News. “They are outraged that people and organizations from outside our city are dictating to Council how to run our city. The narrative that we can have ‘either Sheriff’s or social services,’ or ‘either Sheriff’s or unarmed security teams’ is false.”
While residents and business owners have expressed concerns over rising crime, the police were sent packing anyway with the council majority feeling that taking real cops off the beat in favor of the security ambassadors was a winning idea.
“Prioritizing people’s safety doesn’t just mean people with badges and guns on the street,” said Councilmember Lindsey P. Horvath at the meeting. “We have to find another way to keep our residents safe in a way that is affordable.”
Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne, whose bio identifies her as the “first out LGBTQ Iranian elected anywhere globally and locally, became the first woman of color elected to West Hollywood’s City Council” amended the budgets to redistribute the funds for the sheriff’s deputies to the Block by Block program.
“We have all talked for two years about re-imagining policing and reimagining policing means reallocating funding and that’s exactly what that means – you can’t just say it without actually doing it. Period,” she said.
The WeHo Block by Block program which was established in 2013 “provides a highly visible uniformed presence at the street level. Block by Block Security Ambassadors are deployed on bicycles along major streets, alleys, City parking lots, and residential neighborhoods,” according to the city’s website. “Block by Block Security Ambassadors leverage the effectiveness of local law enforcement and work in collaboration with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. In addition to supplemental safety services, Block by Block Security Ambassadors also get to know West Hollywood’s neighborhoods and assist in providing an extra level of hospitality to visitors and help to address quality of life concerns in the community.”
“Our mission is to be a visible deterrent on the street. To try to offset any low-hanging fruit criminal activity,” Shea Gibson, the manager of the West Hollywood Security Ambassadors, told ABC 7 Los Angeles
John Erickson who was the other council member to vote against the cut in police funding told Fox News, “Community safety is our number one concern.”
“When I’ve heard from countless residents about how they want to feel safer, that involves comprehensive planning and something that is not just drawn out over a decision,” he said.
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