Crime and quality of life worries in Burbank prompted a face-off between residents and some city officials last week at the Worshipwalk Church, 3310 West Magnolia Blvd. No, Burbank hasn’t dropped into a pit of total despair, but it has taken some hits lately and that has spiked the concerns of many residents.
Burbank Mayor, Bob Frutos, admitted at the February 9 city council meeting he had received numerous phone calls and emails about crime, especially gang violence, being on the rise in the Media City. Several recent incidents fueled those fears, including a gang-related shooting on February 4 and a second shooting on the Burbank Boulevard overpass a few days later. “Year to date, gang related crime reports, as of January 31, 15 reports out of 1,571 reports taken by our police officers, 15 related to gangs. Thirteen reports were specifically for graffiti, one report was for threat, one was for attempted murder at Lundigan park and the suspects were in custody. On the Feb 8 Burbank Blvd overpass shooting. It was not gang related — again the chief advised me — it was not gang-related. The motive for the shooting … personal nature, relationship, emotional driven,” Frutos said during a report about a conversation he had that morning with Chief of Police, Scott LaChasse.
“There is a major uptick in crime across the Southland” however,” our police department is on top of it,” here, Frutos, a retired LAPD officer, assured the council and the community.
Mayor Frutos and Chief LaChasse met with residents at Worshipwalk Church last Wednesday to ease their worries, concerns, and allay their fears that Burbank is on a downhill slide. They got some assistance from Deputy Chief, Mike Albanese, Patrol Captain, Denis Cremins, Lieutenant, Eric Deroian, Press Information Officer, Sergeant Claudio Losacco, and Vice-mayor, Jess Talamantes. The meeting was hosted by the Magnolia Park Mamas, a group of mothers who live in the area, and organized by Magnolia Park Merchants Association President, Ashley Erikson. Between 40 and 50 people gathered in the church auditorium for the discussion.
Chief LaChasse tried to downplay a rise in violent crime saying there’s been a “flare of activity” but, “not an uptick in shootings.” The latest BPD crime statistics shows violent crime rose from 150 in 2014 to 159 last year.
LaChasse says Burbank, like Glendale, is “freeway close,” which makes the city a convenient target for criminals coming from outside the area. What can be done? The BPD staffing is down at least 11 officers, but a heavy recruitment effort is underway to bring the department up to full strength of 160. LaChasse says “it’s difficult to find qualified folks.” The community can help the crime fighting with prevention — especially with locking doors, homes and motor vehicles. Also be on the alert. LaChasse suggested, “If you see something, say something.”
Apparently reporting suspicious or troublesome activity is not as easy as it should be. The BPD officials heard complaints that when residents call in “the attitude is not caring,” according to one speaker. Long time Burbank resident and mother of a Theodore Roosevelt Elementary student, Mariana Jieanu, was at the meeting. Jieanu told me she has called in to the BPD about a neighbor’s dog barking and that she was rudely dismissed. Jieanu believes “… if our voices are heard … something is going to change” in the community.
Jieanu recommends police employees should get sensitivity training on how to deal with the public. I agree. Police personnel who answer the service calls should get the training as well. By the way, LaChasse told the audience the police phone calls are recorded and residents pay for and deserve good service. Deputy Chief, Mike Albanese, encouraged anyone who has called in for service and was treated poorly, to contact him, and he “will follow-up.”
Burbank blogger, Jessica Cribbs, attended the meeting, too. Recently, Cribbs wrote an informative post called “What’s Happening To Burbank? Is Burbank Really A Great Place To Raise A Family?” In an email, Cribbs gave the city officials at the meeting high points for addressing the important issues: “I feel the immediate takeaway is that communication needs to be present between the community, city officials, the PD and the BUSD. The topic that is of major interest to me (and parents in this community) is the issue with the SROs (School Resource Officers) It is detrimental to our youth that we find the funding to get these SROs back into our public schools starting in Middle School.The relationship that can be built there is so very important for the generation behind us.”
On the subject of SROs, both Frutos and Talamantes said they understood the need, but the funding for these positions “must come in partnership”.. with the .. “school district.” So far, the district officials have remained silent on the issue.
“I think it says a lot about our city officials, for them to take the time with us and make it clear they are available any time. I truly feel like we’re all in this together, politics aside,” Cribbs added.
Note: For those interested in meeting with officials to talk about their concerns or how to get help in starting a Neighborhood Watch call Officer Joshua Kendrick (818) 238-3223.