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23
Nov 2021
Newswatch November 23, 20021

Law Enforcement News

Police Commission To Vote on 12% Increase To LAPD Budget
In 2020 protesters marched in the streets to demand defunding the police, briefly gaining support from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city council. However, the Los Angeles Police Department got more funding. On Tuesday the police commission is set to vote on increasing the LAPD budget once again. The Los Angeles Police Department is seeking a 12% increase as violent crime increases. “Murders are skyrocketing,” said Detective Jamie McBride. “We haven’t seen murders like this since the 1990’s.” McBride is the director of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union which represents LAPD officers. “Right now the LAPD is investigating over 110 follow home robberies,” he added. “They follow you home and then they do a home invasion robbery. Those are the worst of the worst.” McBride also said since the calls to defund the police, LAPD has lost 500 officers and are poised to lose even more. They are also struggling to recruit new police officers. McBride added that at its current capacity the LAPD could not keep the area safe during the Olympics. However, some want the money to be spread to different social services and agencies believing that pouring more money into the LAPD budget won’t drive the crime down “What we’ve learned over the years is that police don’t keep us safe — resources keep us safe,” said Baba Akili from Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. “Because if you look at the communities that are well resourced, they don’t have police.”
CBS 2

Citing rise in violent crime, LAPD seeks $213 million budget hike
Even as some municipalities grapple with reallocating police funds in the wake of racial and social justice upheaval over high-profile killings of people of color at the hands of officers, the Los Angeles Police Department wants a $213 million budget increase. If approved, the figure would bring the department's budget for the next fiscal year to nearly $2 billion, roughly 12% more than the previous year. "There just aren’t enough police officers for a horizontal community like Los Angeles," said Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff. "There’s no presence of law enforcement. Law enforcement now is about community policing, not militaristic policing. Community policing requires proactive work and engagement with the community and with people who are experiencing these horrible issues of mental illness and drug addiction."
Courthouse News

LA Police Protective League Notifies City of Significant FDA Compliance Issues with City's COVID-19 Testing Contractor Bluestone
Click here to read the LAPPL letter to the Director of the City of Los Angeles' Personnel Department regarding the potential violations of FDA conditions for Emergency Use Authorization of COVID-19 testing companies.

Sketchy no-bid contract draws needed scrutiny
The Los Angeles Police Protective League is suing the city of L.A. over one of those contracts. The union wants an investigation into how a testing contractor, PPS Health Inc., which does business as Bluestone Safe, was awarded a $3 million contract to test unvaccinated city employees for the COVID virus. Agatha Christie wouldn’t spend a lot of time wondering. PPS Health Inc. is partially owned by Dr. Pedram Salimpour, who happens to be a Los Angeles fire and police pensions commissioner. He was reappointed to the pension commission by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2017. Under normal circumstances, there’s nothing illegal about lobbying for business. Where it gets sketchy is that Bluestone was awarded a no-bid contract. Adding to the sketchiness, Bluestone contracts with other companies to provide the products and services it offers. The company is not a laboratory or manufacturer. It is a start-up owned by a city commissioner. The police union is suing because its members have been ordered to submit to twice-weekly coronavirus testing if they are unvaccinated, and the city plans to deduct the $65 cost of each test from the employees’ paychecks. A hearing in the lawsuit has been set for December 8.
Los Angeles Daily News

Porter Ranch Hazmat Situation: 2 Alleged Overdose Patients, Parole Officer Hospitalized
A routine compliance check took a dangerous turn in Porter Ranch late Monday morning, officials said. The incident was reported at an apartment complex located near the intersection of Mason Avenue and Rinaldi Street, near the Porter Ranch Town Center. Officials with the Los Angeles Police Department said a parole officer was making a compliance check when they came in contact with a substance. The officer then started feeling "woozy," before they were taken to a nearby hospital. Two people who allegedly overdosed on fentanyl were also transported to an area hospital. The scene is now considered a hazmat situation and the public is being asked to avoid the area. No further information was immediately released.
FOX 11

LAPD DART Team Handles Domestic-Violence Calls With Intervention, Collaboration
In the city of Los Angeles, police officers respond to, on average, over 40,000 domestic violence calls per year - more than 100 every day. Each of the LAPD's 21 geographic areas deploys a Domestic Abuse Response Team in the hope that early intervention can, among other things, reduce the likelihood of future domestic violence incidents. The DART team for LAPD's 77th Division, which serves South Los Angeles and surrounding neighborhoods, works with The Jenesse Center, a nonprofit domestic violence intervention organization, offering victim support and safety by responding to the scene of domestic violence incidents. The DART team in each division consists of one officer and one civilian advocate working four days a week, 10 hours per day. "Domestic violence is seven days a week, 24/7," says LAPD officer John Calzada. "So not everyone is going to get a DART officer. But they should." An initial call to 911 results in LAPD officers arriving to secure the area, which in many cases can escalate quickly from an already tense environment. But advocates like Paul Jung are not far behind, ready to guide the victim to a wide variety of assistance, from emergency shelter to counseling or legal support. "For somebody to call the police, there has been violence," Jung says. "That's physical violence. So when we get there, we do see the ugly." One woman who was a victim of domestic violence told Eyewitness News the DART program helped her long after the initial incident. DART officers and advocates with the Jenesse Center helped support her in court as she applied for a restraining order a year after the initial alleged abuse.
ABC 7

Police Seek Information On Suspected Homicide Of Homeless Man In Mar Vista
Police Monday were seeking information on the suspect or suspects who killed a 50-year-old homeless man in the Mar Vista area of Los Angeles. Los Angeles Police Department officers were called about 2:45 a.m. Sunday to the area of Venice Boulevard and Wasatch Avenue on reports of a person down and found John Moreno unresponsive at the scene, according to a department statement. Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics pronounced Moreno dead at the scene. The manner of his death was not immediately known. LAPD homicide detectives were investigating Moreno’s death and asked anyone with information to contact LAPD West Bureau Homicide at 213-382-9470. Calls made during non-business hours or on weekends can be directed to 877-527-3247. Anonymous tips can be called in to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or submitted at lacrimestoppers.org.
MyNewsLA.com

Car Owner Shoots Suspect Who Was Trying To Steal Catalytic Converter In Exposition Park: LAPD
A car owner shot and wounded a person who was trying to steal a catalytic converter in Exposition Park early Monday morning, police said. The shooting happened around 1:40 a.m. in the area 1800 block of West 35th Street. The car owner heard a noise and went outside of his house to find a man under his car, Los Angeles Police Department officer Chavez said. The man then got up from under the car holding “an unknown object” and the car owner fired a gunshot at the suspect, Chavez said. The suspect ran from the scene and was apprehended by police. He was then taken to a hospital in stable condition. No further details on the shooting were immediately available. The incident comes as the region sees an increase in catalytic converter thefts. In the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s jurisdiction alone, reports of catalytic converter thefts skyrocketed 400% in 2020 compared to the year before, agency officials said earlier this year. Thieves target the vehicle exhaust emission control device because it contains precious metals and can be scrapped for quick profit.
KTLA 5

Smash And Grab Thieves Break Into Nordstrom Store At L.A.'s Grove Mall
An unknown number of thieves broke into a Nordstrom department store at the Grove mall late Monday, smashing one window. Rick Caruso, the developer behind the Grove, confirmed there was a break-in at the Nordstrom but no entry was made to the Grove. “Fortunately they could not enter the Grove and LAPD is pursuing,” he said in a text message. According to KNBC-TV Channel 4, there was one shattered window at the scene near West 3rd Street and The Grove Drive. A sledgehammer lay nearby among scattered items of clothing, the station reported. A KNBC reporter spoke with a man identified as the Grove’s head of security who said no other businesses in the mall were affected by the break-in, which occurred about 10:45 p.m. The perpetrators fled the scene before police arrived. Deputy Chief Blake Chow told The Times that a pursuit of the suspects ended in the department’s Southeast Division. Further information on the incident, such as how many suspects there were, an estimate of damages to the Nordstrom and whether anyone was in custody, was not available late Monday night.
Los Angeles Times

Suspected Shadow Hills Armed Prowler Is Charged
A man described by police as an "armed serial burglar" in Shadow Hills was charged with more than a dozen felonies and pleaded not guilty last week. Benjamin Renteria, also known as Benjamin Renteria-Herrera, was accused in a criminal complaint filed Nov. 19 with nine counts of burglary, four counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, one count of theft of firearm, one count of assault with a firearm, and one count of discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. The DA's office said late Monday Renteria was brought to San Fernando court Friday where the plea was entered. Renteria is due back in court Jan. 6, 2022. A public entry in the LA Superior Court case database lists no criminal charges, and the DA's office did not respond to media inquiries about the case ahead of the court appearance. He is being held on $240,000 bond. Renteria's arrest ended a three-day search for the man who police believe is responsible for several commercial and residential burglaries in Sunland, Shadow Hills and various communities throughout the northeast San Fernando Valley. Neighbors said they had been terrified.
NBC 4

8 Arrested, 3,000 Pounds Of Marijuana Seized After Illegal Growing Operation Found In Sylmar Warehouse
Eight people have been arrested on suspicion of running a massive, illegal marijuana manufacturing facility in the Sylmar area. The LAPD Mission Division’s Narcotics Enforcement Detail served a search warrant last Thursday on the Gladstone Avenue warehouse, near Arroyo Street, and found a major marijuana grow operation. More than 3,000 pounds of marijuana, two rifles, a shotgun, a pistol and over $30,000 in cash were seized from the warehouse, and eight people were arrested for unlawful cannabis manufacturing violations. Citizen complaints had tipped narcotics investigators to the illegal marijuana operation in the warehouse, which was part of an industrial park that included a large mail facility, a movie studio warehouse, a cookie manufacturing business, and a legal cannabis retail facility, according to the LAPD. Due to the illegal nature of the operation, investigators discovered several code violations at the warehouse, including dangerous wiring, a gas leak, and hazardous fumes leaking from a large diesel generator. LAPD officials say the conditions at the warehouse could have easily caused an explosion and fire at the location.
CBS 2

Man Found Shot Dead at Homeless Encampment in South Gate
A 28-year-old man was found shot dead at a homeless encampment in South Gate, authorities said Saturday. South Gate police officers dispatched at approximately 10:28 p.m. Friday regarding shots heard in the 8600 block of Atlantic Avenue arrived at a homeless encampment and found the victim suffering from apparent gunshot wounds, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. No suspect or suspect vehicle description was released. The sheriff’s Homicide Bureau urged anyone with information regarding the shooting to call them at 323-890-5500 or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
MyNewsLA.com

Megachurch Leader, Self-Proclaimed ‘Son of God,' Charged With Child Sex Trafficking
The leader of a Philippines-based church was charged with having sex with women and underage girls who faced threats of abuse and “eternal damnation” unless they catered to the self-proclaimed “son of God," federal prosecutors announced Thursday. Apollo Carreon Quiboloy and two of his top administrators are among nine people named in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury last week and unsealed Thursday. The indictment includes three Los Angeles-based administrators of Quiboloy's church who were charged last year. The new indictment also names a church administrator in Hawaii. Quiboloy, 71, is head of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church, founded in 1985. The church claims to have 6 million members in about 200 countries. Its United States headquarters is in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles. The church backed the 2016 candidacy of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a close friend of Quiboloy. Duterte used the group’s radio and TV program in southern Davao city to express his views on issues way back when he was mayor of the southern port city. Quiboloy claims to be “the appointed son of God” and in 2019 claimed he stopped a major earthquake from hitting the southern Philippines.
NBC 4

3 Sentenced In Southern California Staged Car Crash Case
Three Los Angeles men involved in staging auto accidents on local freeways were sentenced Monday, Nov. 22, to state prison and ordered to pay nearly $344,000 in restitution after pleading no contest to insurance fraud and assault charges. The case against Victor Valle-Diaz, Eduardo Retana and Ausencio Gomez stemmed from 15 crashes involving 21 victims — some of whom suffered severe injuries — between January 2020 and September 2020, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Valle-Diaz, 55, was sentenced to seven years behind bars in connection with his plea to three counts of assault using force likely to produce great bodily injury and one count of insurance fraud, according to Deputy District Attorney Alex Karkanen. Retana, 25, pleaded no contest to two counts of assault using force likely to produce great bodily injury and one count of insurance fraud. He was sentenced to six years in prison. Gomez, 46, pleaded no contest to one count each of insurance fraud and assault using force likely to produce great bodily injury. He was sentenced to four years in state prison.
Los Angeles Daily News

‘Tis The Season For Scammers: Data Reveals California Residents Are Most Vulnerable
With the holiday season in full swing, Americans are on pace to receive 157 billion spam calls and texts. According to RoboKiller, a mobile app that tracks and eliminates spam calls and text messages — California is a hot spot for cyber scams after receiving approximately 797 million spam texts and 600 million spam calls last month “Scammers most often take a spray and pray approach, where they auto dial many random phone numbers at once, hoping someone will answer,” said Giulia Porter, executive leader at RoboKiller. “Scammers do appear to do their research, targeting this approach at densely populated regions of the United States, of which California is top of the list, to increase their odds of getting a person on the phone with them.” The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is now warning people of holiday shopping risk after online purchase scams accounted for more than a third of all scam reports filed with the bureau. According to BBB, online purchase scams consistently rank among the top three riskiest since 2017 — as a significant number of people continue to lose money when targeted by online purchase scams. Experts are predicting an earlier start to the 2021 holiday shopping season due to supply chain concerns, microchip shortages, and a lack of holiday hiring.
KRON 4

Rape, Murder Of 9-Year-Old Spokane Girl Solved 62 Years Later
Spokane police have identified the man they believed raped and murdered a 9-year-old girl in 1959. In a Friday news release, police said the killer was John Reigh Hoff after using DNA technology to match a sample found on the little girl’s clothing. They believed he was 20 years old at the time he committed the crimes. Hoff died by suicide at the age of 31 in 1970. Authorities said on March 6, 1959, 9-year-old Candice "Candy" Rogers disappeared after selling campfire mints near her home in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood. Her family became concerned after she didn’t return home that night. Police later found boxes of campfire mints, believing to belong to Candy, strewn along Pettet Drive. The 16-day search for Candy ended after investigators found her body underneath a shallow layer of brush and pine needles in a wooded area in northwestern Spokane County. Authorities said Candy was raped and strangled to death with a piece of her own clothing.
FOX 11

‘It Happens Every Day’: Baltimore Passes 300 Homicides This Year
Billy Hayes spent a Saturday earlier this month watching college football at his Northeast Baltimore home with his youngest son, Phillip. The next day, he didn’t think much about it when he heard about more violence in the city. The day after that, he learned Phillip, 40, was dead. Detectives told him they believe his son might have been the victim of road rage, he said. Police found his car still running but heavily damaged, with four bullet holes through the windshield, in the 1500 block of Leslie Street in West Baltimore on Nov. 6. “I have relived that scene a thousand times,” Hayes said in a recent interview. “I can feel his pain.” Hayes is struggling to understand why someone would take his son’s life, or those of any of Baltimore’s more than 300 homicide victims this year. “I can’t say we’ve normalized killings, but we have,” Hayes said. This marks the seventh consecutive year of 300 homicides or more, a streak that began in 2015. The year’s total was 303 as of Friday. The past week underscored the senselessness and range of the violence: a man shot three people, killing two, before an off-duty police officer shot him at a barbershop; a 5-year-old who died in a case in which police say there’s evidence of previous abuse; the stabbing death of a church worker, and the shooting death of a 13-year-old girl.
Baltimore Sun

Public Safety News

COVID Booster Shot Rate Lower In Hard-Hit Areas, LA County Officials Say
More than 1 million booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Los Angeles County, but health officials said on Monday, Nov., 22, that residents in neighborhoods hard hit by the virus have a lower rate of receiving the additional doses. According to the county Department of Public Health, there are about 4.8 million county residents eligible for booster shots, but only about 6.9% of those in hard-hit, high-need areas received booster shots as of Nov. 17. That compares with 12.6% in other areas. “Since boosters first became available to selected adults in late September, we’ve seen uptake patterns suggesting that people in the hardest-hit neighborhoods are not getting booster shots as frequently as those in other L.A County neighborhoods,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
Los Angeles Daily News

California Sees Welcome Dip In COVID-19 Heading Into Holidays
After a worrisome upward trend last month, Bay Area counties have seen COVID-19 transmission rates decline and the state overall is seeing hopeful signs of improvement heading into the holidays — even as outbreaks worsen across much of the country. Gov. Gavin Newsom noted the progress as he visited a vaccine clinic Monday in San Francisco to urge more people to get the shots. But he also sounded a wary tone as infections continued a sharp upward trend nationally in the upper Midwest and Northeast as well as in Europe, suggesting a coming winter surge. “We saw a few weeks ago some troubling signs with case rates going up, positivity rates going up, hospitalizations and ICUs going up,” Newsom said. “That said, in the last 10 or 11 days, we’ve seen some stability. Some good signs. That is good news.” Newsom said at 1.9%, California now has the lowest rate of positive tests for the virus in the United States, and the pathogen’s effective reproductive rate has fallen to 0.91. A figure lower than 1 indicates it is not spreading.
Mercury News

Local Government News

LA City Council To Hold Final Public Hearing On Redistricting Draft Map
The Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to hold its final state-required public hearing today on proposed new borders for the city's 15 council districts, which must be adopted in time take effect Jan. 1. The council is expected to vote on adopting a final map on Dec. 1. During the first public hearing, the council received several calls from San Fernando Valley residents opposing the proposed map for dividing the neighborhoods of Studio City and Reseda between two different council districts, with Studio City divided among Council Districts 2 and 4, and Reseda divided among Council Districts 3 and 4. Studio City Neighborhood Council Vice President Scott Mandell urged Councilman Paul Krekorian to introduce an amendment to the map that would give Council District 2 the entirety of Studio City. “We want to remain whole, we want to remain in the same council district with the same council member we voted for,'' Mandell said. Other residents who called into the meeting praised the unification of their neighborhoods under one council district, particularly Koreatown and Hollywood.
WestSide Current

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