Santa Monica Lookout Opinion
Council Should Declare Public Safety State of Emergency

May 24, 2024

Dear Editor,

Public safety refers to the well-being and protection of everyone in the community. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that people are safe from harm and danger. This includes things like preventing crime, responding to emergencies, and making sure that buildings and roads are safe to use. Public safety is important for everyone, and it helps to create a peaceful and secure environment for people to live in.

If the citizens and residents in a block, neighborhood, village, town, city, state, or country are not or do not feel they are safe from harm or danger, how can they conduct business, attend school, vote in elections much less speak or worship freely? Without safety, i.e., basic survival, one must use one’s energy and resources to protect oneself and family from threats by others. This is the first and primal instinct of all living entities, human or otherwise.

I first became aware of the priority of Public Safety in 1970 when I worked with Vietnamese Refugees in I Corps, Republic of Vietnam as a U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer. While we tried to improve their food, health, farming, and education, we failed because the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese would come in at night and shoot the local government officials, teachers, or nurses.

Violent Crimes
Chart courtesy City of Santa Monica

Is there a public safety crisis in Santa Monica? In looking at the most recent annual data from the Santa Monica Police Department, Jan – Dec 2023, there was a slight rise, 2.2 percent, in Violent Crimes from 667 in 2022 to 692 in 2023 – Murder, Rape, Robbery, and Aggravated Assault. Property Crimes were up 3.9 percent, from 3,956 to 4,112 – Burglary, Larceny, and Motor Vehicle Theft. Violent Crimes and Property Crimes are both down 13 percent from the 2018 highs of 797 and 4,732, respectively ("Theft, Assaults Drove Increase in Crime Last Year," February 14, 2024).

However, in the last month the belief that crime is declining has been shattered with the recent stabbing of two German tourists in Parking Structure 7 by a homeless man and the assault and attempted rape of a young woman jogging on a beach path at 7:15 a.m. by another homeless man on parole for assault with a deadly weapon ("Homeless Man Charged with Assault, Attempted Murder in Sunday Stabbings," May 21, 2024 and "Woman Attacked Jogging on Santa Monica Beach Path," May 16, 2024)..

In July of last year, Phil Brock, now Mayor of Santa Monica and then City Council Member, was attacked in broad daylight on the 3rd Street Promenade by a mentally disturbed, homeless man.

I was recently in the shop of the 3rd Street Promenade merchant around 7 p.m. when four young teenage male Caucasians blatantly shoplifted an item from his store. His response, it’s a cost of business as it would take too long for the Police to respond, and the amount was less than $200. These young males weren’t homeless.

They were simply thieves, stealing because they could get away with it. Some merchants don’t file police reports because their insurance costs would go up. Some merchants are reluctant to use the Parking structures for themselves or their female employees. Carrying Mace spray or gel becomes a necessity just going to and from work. Working here now requires combat pay.

Such factors add to the disappearing small businesses on the3rd Street Promenade as if the massive disruption by online Retail and COVID weren’t enough. At the same time, however, some traditional shopping areas are recovering. The Grove in West Los Angeles and Century City Mall are booming. Customers are filling the shops and restaurants rather than shoplifters and the mentally unstable.

Thus, for our City Council or civic leaders to “shrug-off” our current situation because of the homeless or hope it will eventually get better, is another form of hiding one’s head-in-the-sand and waiting for the “problem” to go away. If we and our leaders simply wait for it to get better, by the time it does, the 3rd Street Promenade will have 70 percent vacancy, far worse than the 30 percent today.

What can be done? First, instead of declaring a state of emergency because of the homeless, declare a state of emergency because of Public Safety.

Second, rather than spend millions on homeless and diversity, equality, and inclusiveness projects that do not have quantifiable, measurable goals, make a $5 million emergency allocation for the next 15 months to the Police Department to hire fifty sworn, patrol officers. Have these officers frequently walk the 3rd Street Promenade and actually staff the small kiosk near Santa Monica Blvd. Re-create a sense of safety for not just the shoppers, businesses and tourists on the 3rd Street Promenade but also us “local Santa Monicans” and the people working here.

That sense of safety can become a tide that spreads throughout Santa Monica. It becomes even more practical to staff up now as the 2028 LA Olympics will be here in about 1,500 days. Third, write County and State Government officials to cease the distribution of needles at Public Parks in Santa Monica and request other laws that support Public Safety for ALL Californians.

All of the above actions take time, money, effort, and most importantly a commitment to a change in attitude, a change in perspective, a change in priorities. Again, and Again, and Again – PUBLIC SAFETY MUST BE PRIORITY ONE FOR ALL GOVERNMENTS, especially in SANTA MONICA.

John Medlin, USARV 1969-70
Santa Monica

Back to Lookout News Santa Monica Lookout is owned by Copyright 1999-2024 . All Rights Reserved. EMAIL Disclosures