Communities in Northeast Los Angeles, including Highland Park and Eagle Rock, will not suffer due to the dismantling of the area's gang enforcement unit, LAPD Capt. William Murphy said during a community meeting Wednesday night.
Murphy told residents that only about 10 of the patrol officers of the 30 man anti-gang unit assigned to the Northeast area choose not to sign financial disclosure forms, which they are required to do by the end of March to remain on the gang unit. Further, Murphy pointed out that violent crime has decreased by 51 percent during the first two months of this year, compared to the same period in 2010.
In January, Rick Ortiz, the chief detective of the northeast gang unit, told Eagle Rock Patch that half of the officers had decided early not to sign the needed document by the March deadline, and that the other half of the officers were also leaning toward not signing.
“The officers are not going anywhere,” Murphy told residents at the Glassell Park Community Senior Center last night. “The neighborhoods are safe and we have the stats to prove it.”
Murphy said the officers who did not sign the financial disclosure forms would be reassigned to regular patrol or other assignments within the Northeast area. Those officers bring their background and knowledge of gangs into the new assignment, he said.
The Northeast anti-gang unit has 10 narcotic officers, 10 detectives and about 10 patrol officers. Of the patrol officers, only one signed the disclosure form. Murphy said he was not worried about finding other officers interested in joining the anti-gang unit.
Murphy spent an hour explaining why the financial disclosure forms are required and why some officers decided not to sign them. He reassured residents that crime will not increase as a result of this requirement.
The forms are part of a department policy intended to deter corruption among gang unit officers who handle cash, drugs and other contraband. The policy was adopted two years ago and it was part of a set of reforms the U.S. Department of Justice forced on the LAPD after the Rampart corruption scandal in the 90s.
Some of the Northeast anti-gang unit officers decided not to sign the disclosure forms as a matter of principle, Murphy said, echoing Detective Ortiz's remarks back in January.
"It's a fairness thing for a lot of officers," Ortiz told Patch at the time. "My thing is, if you're going to have a policy like this, then make it department-wide." Ortiz added that many officers also worry that because their finances are being kept on record by LAPD, they could be subpoenaed by prosecutors for court cases.
"There's a fear that your financial records can end up in the hands of the bad guys," Ortiz said.
Gang crime has been decreasing over the years. In the last three years alone, more than 60 percent of violent crimes dropped. And the downward trend has continued. Besides a 51-percent fall in violent crimes during January and February, property crimes also decreased by 19 percent and "Part 1 crimes" such as rape, aggravated assault and burglary, dropped by 25 percent compared to the same period last year, Murphy said.
“We have great officers working here,” he said, adding: “Now do you feel good about the gang unit? You are not going to freak out?”
Murphy also attributed the success in decreasing crime to the community and asked residents to continue to help police officers to keep streets safe.
The Northeast Community Police Station covers, Eagle Rock, Highland Park and parts of Echo Park, plus Cypress Park, Mount Washington, Atwater Village, Los Feliz, Silver Lake and East Hollywood.