While Halloween is traditionally a time for hijinks, South L.A. police don't appear to be too worried that Wednesday night will see a crime spike in their area.
"We've never had any issues as far as a spike," said the captain of the LAPD's Newton Division, Jorge Rodriguez. "We do deploy additional units on that day for the safety factor."
By "safety factor," he's referring to the tendency of young trick-or-treaters to run into the street and dart between cars – some parked, some moving.
"Make sure kids wear light clothing and have a glow stick or flashlight," said Rodriguez. "Don't cross the street between vehicles, don't run from one house to the next."
Captain Paul Snell of the neighboring LAPD division, Southwest, said he'll have extra units deployed as well, but mostly just to make sure kids can get around safely.
"We haven't experienced any significant issues in terms of places to avoid where it's problematic," said Snell. "Usually it's pretty safe for the kids."
Which may be surprising to some – it is South Central, after all, and the area is still preceded by its reputation, despite a major reduction in violent crime in recent years in places like Newton. But Rodriguez says folks "can no longer live in a bubble."
"We don't have to live in fear of being in our homes," he said. "It's not the safest, but it's much safer than it was years ago."
But parents "always have to be with their head on a swivel," added Rodriguez, and "just keep an eye on things that don't fit." Identifying gang members is fairly simple, he said, and be aware of warning signs – like vehicles driving slowly with its windows open.
"Take a look at your surroundings," said Rodriguez. "Who's standing around? We all recognize who the gang members are, what gangs are in what hood."
He recommends taking trick-or-treaters to well-lit areas whenever possible, and emphasized the importance of keeping kids on the sidewalk and out of the street.
For Snell's part, he and Southwest will keep an eye on USC and St. Mary's College, which he said usually sees about a considerable number of partygoers. He'll keep an eye on the malls, too, but noted "there's never been any issues."
Captain Robert Arcos of 77th Street Division was also hopeful that tomorrow night will be quiet, noting that on Halloween last year, 77th St. saw an unusually high number of crimes – 34. (He wasn't heading the division at the time.) Of those 34, 10 were burglaries, a number he called "extraordinarily high."
"People take advantage when people go out trick-or-treating," Arcos said. "One of our messages is to always leave an adult home when you're trick-or-treating."
In the second installment of his Captain's Corner series, Arcos lists some safety tips for children:
– Take flashlights.
– Trick or treat with a responsible adult.
– Trick or treat in familiar areas.
– Never enter a stranger's house.
– Only eat sealed candy.
– Don't eat homemade treats.
Like his Newton and Southwest counterparts, Arcos will have extra officers on the streets "to hopefully quell any violent crime."
"But it also requires people to just be attentive to their surroundings," he said.
Photo by Mark J P via Flickr Creative Commons.