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The Beach Reporter - Jan. 13, 2005
Hermosa Beach News
HB Councilman disputes pier plaza incident (1/13)
By Whitney Youngs
According to a Police Department memorandum obtained by The Beach Reporter last Wednesday, a Hermosa Beach City Councilman and Planning Commissioner allegedly used obscenities and were verbally abusive to several employees working at a downtown bar in early December, which, according to several witnesses, they threatened to close down.
According to the memorandum written by Hermosa Beach Police Officer Donavan Sellan, addressed to Lt. Lance Jaakola and sent to several upper level city employees, a doorman, Rick Contreras, working at Dragon Dec. 12 flagged down Sellan and another officer at about 1:25 a.m.
The doorman told Sellan that City Councilman Michael Keegan and another man, now identified as Planning Commissioner Rick Koenig, had "just cursed and yelled at him and two other employees."
Whether or not such an incident occurred as reported is still a matter of conjecture based on whom is telling the story. In the memo, the doorman said Keegan was with another City Councilman he did not recognize. The witness said he knew it was Keegan because he contended that he has seen him "drinking inside the bar in the past."
"I asked him why he thought the other subject was a City Councilman and he told me because the person identified himself as one," reported Sellan. "Contreras said that both of them were heavily intoxicated and they were staggering. Contreras told me that they advised him to shut the (expletive) front doors and to turn the (expletive) music down. Contreras said that because of their verbal abusive behavior he went and got the two on-duty managers, Jason Cochran and Mark Welling."
Keegan denies most of what was written in the report including statements that he was intoxicated, that he used obscenities, threatened the establishment's staff and even the time he was there. "When I see someone doing something wrong that I think can be remedied very simply, I'd probably do it myself," said Keegan in an interview Monday. "If I saw someone violating a rule and it was not a dangerous act, I'd probably correct them and ask them not to do it. If I saw someone riding a bike in the red zone in the city when the red lights are flashing, I might ask them to get off their bike and walk it.
"That night, I was inside for a moment and I discussed this issue outside with the doorman because I couldn't identify anyone who worked there inside the bar, so the conversation took place outside." Cochran, speaking for himself and on behalf of the rest of the Dragon staff that witnessed the alleged incident, declined to comment on the matter entirely.
In the memo, Sellan also reported that the unidentified man who has now been determined to be Koenig, "told him in one month that the bar is up for review and that they were going to close the bar down," stated Sellan. "I asked Cochran what the unidentified councilman specifically stated and he told me 'I'm going to (expletive) close this place.' He also said that both of them told him that he needed to review the (expletive) C.U.P. regarding their front doors."
Sellan reported that Cochran said the men allegedly used the "'F' word" at least a dozen times. He also told Sellan that both men were very intoxicated, had slurred speech and were staggering, and, "could not believe that City Councilmen would conduct themselves like that and he felt intimidated." Welling was also present when the alleged tirade occurred, also felt intimidated and was also shocked that the two men would act in such a manner.
Keegan said he has been inside the restaurant/bar one other time and he had filed a complaint on it a previous time in which he called the police Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. Keegan said this establishment is much louder than others on the plaza and refutes that he was there at the time reported. He said he approached the staff about this issue several hours earlier.
"The council has made it clear that we want the noise reduced and we have made it clear to the city manager and that is all we can do," said Keegan. "I asked them to turn the music down. I will tell you I was not there at 1:25 in the morning. I will say that if there was an investigation to be had for a report then why didn't the police contact me? They have my home address, home number and cell phone number. I was never contacted about the matter and in fact, I only read the memo after the press received it."
Councilman Sam Edgerton, who has over the years disagreed with Keegan on various political issues including the full deployment of a citywide Wi-Fi system that would provide free Internet access to residents in town, said he felt that what the men admit they said was still inappropriate. "He and Koenig are not law- or code-enforcement officers and they should not be acting as such.
There is a proper way to work with the city to get the noise level reduced," said Edgerton. "This has become a priority item with the police and they are, in fact, enforcing the noise ordinance now more than ever. For Keegan to go over and berate someone, drunk or sober, is wrong. For Koenig, he is on the commission that actually enforces from a board level the C.U.P.s that each bar and restaurant has and I feel that this really undermines his ability to hear any issue if he is indicating a bias."
Koenig, who was appointed to the Planning Commission by the City Council in July to a four-year term that will expire at the end of June 2008, denied the content of the report. He also said that he and Keegan have been friends, "for a long time" and based on his recollection, ran into Keegan in downtown Hermosa Beach, and accompanied him on to the pier plaza where they approached a few staff members at Dragon and left after speaking with them.
"No good can come from this and it's not true," said Koenig on Monday from his initial thoughts after reading the memo himself. "I feel that it's some kind of political move that I don't understand. I donate hundreds of hours every year to the community and this is just vicious. I was down there with Michael, nobody was drunk and nobody was swearing, and (Dragon staff) were asked politely to turn the music down and close the doors and that's it. That's the end of it."
Koenig, a lifetime resident of Hermosa Beach, received the Man of the Year award by the Chamber of Commerce in 2003. The award is given to those individuals who exhibit exemplary civic awareness and service to the community. Koenig donates his time to citywide events like the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the Project Touch Car Show; and serves on the board of many nonprofit groups, including the Kiwanis Club, the Hermosa Arts Foundation and the Historical Society.
Voters elected Keegan, who is the owner of Manhattan Bread and Bagel Company in Manhattan Beach, to the council in November 2001 for his first term in office. In a Q&A feature that ran in The Beach Reporter in May 2002, Keegan was posed the question of how to create a downtown that more represents a balance between a small-town/neighborhood atmosphere and a nightlife environment.
Keegan responded by saying, "I think harmony between residential concerns and business concerns will never reach that perfect level. We need to step up on enforcement of our conditional use permits, and we need to enforce all the rules and laws of our city ... I think we are working toward letting the downtown area know that we are serious and we are going do what we can to enforce these laws. I think with prior City Councils it has always been business as usual with lax enforcement, but that is all changing with two new council members."
Later in the report, Sellan wrote that both Keegan and the unidentified man (Koenig), "left staggering toward" the Mermaid, which is located almost directly across the way at the northwest corner of the plaza. "They (the Dragon staff) wanted me to do something about the incident and I advised them that the threat did not appear to be a crime but that I would inform my supervisor," wrote Sellan. "I think someone needs to talk to Keegan and to the Dragon staff to smooth this incident over."
Mayor Art Yoon, upon reading the memo, addressed the issue of elected officials perhaps using their status or office to act above the law or above ethical standards becoming a City Council member. "It seems to me that there is an allegation being made that these two men were out of control and out of line, and according to the memo I read a few staff members are alleging it," said Yoon. "I don't even know what to believe because it's not even a police report, it's a memo. So I'm not even sure this incident actually occurred but if it did no one from Dragon is really saying anything.
As far as I'm concerned, there was nothing he did that was illegal. Is it unethical? Well, that's dependent upon the facts. It's possible that Dragon was completely out of compliance and so Councilman Keegan was right on target saying, 'Hey, you guys need to shut your doors.' Now if that's all he said, there's nothing wrong with that." "The only part that might make this whole thing unethical is that if Michael is using his office to threaten someone or something on the issue of compliance when in fact there is no compliance issue. I don't know, I wasn't there," added Yoon.
In a separate incident, Keegan was reported to have been intoxicated at the 2003 city Christmas party where he allegedly made disparaging remarks about the city police department as being "... a bunch of overpaid security guards."
Hermosa Beach Police Officer Association President Jaime Ramirez drafted a letter to the City Council members Jan. 13, 2004, based on the account of one member of the department. "This statement was made in the presence of the member and his spouse," wrote Ramirez. "In addition, Mr. Keegan appeared extremely intoxicated and exhibited inappropriate, unprofessional behavior in the presence of our members and their spouses.
The HBPOA has decided not to make this information public and trusts that you will deal with the matter appropriately so that we can prevent this type of incident from occurring again."
Keegan also denies that he was intoxicated at this particular function and contends that he is not a favorite among officers within the Police Department because of his opinions on how the police enforce the law in the downtown area. "I think if the police would enforce the rules on the books regarding the noise ordinance, we wouldn't have as much trouble as we see down there," said Keegan.
"I don't agree with the tactic of parking your vehicle out on the plaza and standing in front of it, and if that is the police method we are going to use, I don't agree with it. I think officers should be roving the area and moving around as much as possible, and maybe my disagreement with police deployment could lead to some animosity for police to write memos about me."
Fellow Councilman J.R. Reviczky also read the memo and came to the conclusion that it is effectively a "he said/she said" incident. "You're only seeing one side of the story and I'm not excited about it," he said. "As far as last year's Christmas party, I was not party to that nor did I witness that. I heard about it but I don't know anything more. I'm always reluctant to make judgments as a third party to issues."
Reviczky also added that he feels it's appropriate to tell any business to turn down its music and such if it is in violation of its conditional use permit.
"I've had residents complain to me about that place, and I've gone down there and witnessed it myself," he explained. "I've called the watch commander and asked them to talk to them and he did.
The only thing Mike did was leave one step out of the process and I just don't see it being a big deal, and that's really the only thing I know he did for sure which is what its C.U.P. says it is supposed to be doing. All of the other stuff, I don't know."
The Easy Reader - Jan. 13, 2005
Councilman Michael Keegan and Planning Commissioner Rick Koenig have denied
allegations that they yelled and cursed at employees of a Pier Plaza bar as
Koenig threatened to close the place down, in what the bar staff described as a
drunken late-night incident.
The allegations by employees of the Dragon Bar were written up by Hermosa Beach Police Officer Donavan Sellan in a memo to one of his superiors. “I’m not going to dignify that memo with a response,” Keegan said on Monday. “It didn’t go down like they said it did.”
Keegan declined to discuss the matter in detail but said there was no drunkenness and no profanity. He said he and Koenig “went there and asked them to turn the music down and shut the door. And that’s it. And they said no.”
Koenig called the memo “ridiculous” and also denied the allegations. “There was no profanity, no staggering, whatever,” he said.
He said he and Keegan asked the Dragon staff to turn down the music and close the door. Koenig said he did not recall the staff’s response. “I don’t remember exactly what they said,” Koenig said. “…We pretty much left.”
‘Cursed and yelled’ - In the memo, Sellan wrote that Dragon doorman Rick Contreras flagged him down about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 12 to report that Keegan and another man, who Contreras believed was also a councilman, “cursed and yelled at him and two other employees.” “Contreras said that both of them were heavily intoxicated and they were staggering,” the memo continued. “Contreras told me that they advised him to shut the ‘f---ing’ doors and turn the ‘f---ing’ music down.”
A Dragon manager, Jason Cochran, told Sellan that “the unidentified councilman,” who turned out to be Koenig, said, “I’m going to f---ing close this place,” the officer wrote. Both Keegan and Koenig told Cochran that he “needed to review” instructions about the Dragon’s front doors contained in the conditional use permit that allows the bar to operate. “I think someone needs to talk to Keegan and the Dragon staff to smooth this incident over,” Sellan wrote.
Conditional use permits are regularly reviewed by the planning commission and the city council. The commission makes recommendations to the council, which can revoke the permits. Police Chief Michael Lavin said the behavior alleged in the memo would not violate any laws, and City Manager Steve Burrell said the behavior would not violate any city policies, rules or regulations. Both officials said no further action was called for.
Dragon staff mentioned in the memo were unavailable by press time.
‘Kind of unfortunate’ - Councilman Pete Tucker said council members or commissioners who notice noise violations should report them to city staff for enforcement rather than take matters into their own hands.
The alleged behavior of Keegan and Koenig “really muddied the waters” when it comes to reviewing the Dragon’s conditional use permit, Tucker said. “How can either of these guys sit up there on the council or the commission and sit in judgment on [the Dragon]?” Tucker said.
“It’s kind of unfortunate. It’s like the little badge incident in Redondo,” Tucker said, referring to a December 2003 incident in which Redondo Councilman Don Szerlip flashed his ceremonial badge during a profanity-laced run-in with a local resident. Szerlip reported his own behavior to a police officer, and apologized to the resident and to his own council colleagues.
‘Premature to judge’ - Hermosa Mayor Art Yoon took a milder view of the Dragon allegations. “I think it’s premature to make any judgment on the issue,” Yoon said.”…At this point I don’t know exactly what happened.”
He said he called Keegan as a courtesy to tell him there were press inquiries into the memo. “Michael told me ‘Art, there’s no truth to it,’” Yoon said. “I never would have characterized Michael Keegan as being discourteous,” Yoon said.
Yoon pointed to the Dragon staff’s erroneous description of Koenig as a councilman and said, “Already there is a little inaccuracy in some descriptions in the memo.” Councilmen Sam Edgerton and JR Reviczky were not immediately available. ER
The Daily Breeze – January 7, 2005
Hermosa officials accused of bar confrontation
HB City Councilman Michael Keegan denies he bullied anybody during incident at Dragon Bar. He says he merely asked for doors to be shut and music to be turned down.
A Hermosa Beach Police Department memorandum circulating at City Hall describes witness accounts of a city councilman and a planning commissioner in an obscenity-laced tirade allegedly threatening to close down a bar on Pier Avenue if employees did not shut the doors to block out noise.
Quoting employees of the bar, the memo states that Councilman Michael Keegan and another "councilman" confronted the doorman of the Dragon Bar about 1:25 a.m. on Dec. 12, yelling obscenities and demanding that he shut the front doors and turn down the music.
Keegan denied that he ever bullied anybody during the incident and said the man who was with him at the time was not a councilman but Planning Commissioner Rick Koenig.
"I only told them to turn the music down and that they need to keep their doors shut according to their conditional use permit," he said. "I did not yell obscenities. I wasn't drunk. When they didn't do anything, I just walked away."
Hermosa Beach police officer Donavan Sellan states in his memo that the bar employees told him they were intimidated by the men's behavior and "could not believe they would conduct themselves in that manner." They also told the officer that both men appeared to be drunk, had slurred speech and were staggering, according to the memo. One of the employees said Keegan and Koenig uttered expletives more than a dozen times during the encounter.
Keegan denied spouting expletives or telling Dragon employees that he would shut them down. The two men, who have long been good friends, only had a couple of beers the entire night, Keegan said.
Koenig called the allegations "vicious."
"I was shocked when I read this memo," he said. "All we did was tell them to turn the music down. There was no obscene language. We were not inebriated. We're all grown-ups here. This is ridiculous."
Dragon has probably received only one citation for overcrowding since it opened its doors in June, Hermosa Beach police officials said. Neither the bar owner nor the managers returned calls on Thursday.
Other council members said they are confused and don't know what to make of the memo. Mayor Art Yoon said he believes the incident is worthy of an investigation.
"Right now it's just a he-said-they-said kind of thing," Yoon said. "I need to know what the truth is before I start judging people. It's important to find out what the facts are."
There is neither a police report nor an ongoing investigation of the incident, City Manager Steve Burrell said.
Councilman Sam Edgerton, Keegan's longtime political rival, said he is concerned about the timing of the incident because the Dragon's conditional use permit is up for review.
"It's an issue we have to address as a council," he said. "How can the Planning Commission review their permit without bias or prejudice after this memo?"
But the memo doesn't tell the whole story, Councilman J.R. Reviczky said.
"I've been to numerous events with Michael," he said. "I've never seen him drunk or conducting himself in that manner."
Reviczky said he has heard that the Dragon has received several warnings from city officials for violating its conditional use permit.
Councilman Pete Tucker said that the root of the issue is that the city does not have a consistent procedure to monitor whether bars adhere to their conditional use permits.
"As a city we've never enforced them consistently," he said.
But that doesn't give any council member the license to directly approach a business, Tucker said.
"We're not supposed to go around telling people what to do," he said. "That's why we have the Police Department. We need to go through the proper channels. We can't be the judge and jury at the same time."
Keegan also was the subject of a memo dated Jan. 14, 2004, from the Hermosa Beach Police Officers Association. In it, association President Jaime Martinez wrote that Keegan was heard referring to police officers as "a bunch of overpaid security guards" and that he "exhibited inappropriate, unprofessional behavior in the presence of our members and their spouses."
Martinez said in his memo that the association had decided not to make the matter public, hoping the council would privately discourage such incidents from happening in the future.
Keegan said that memo also was about an issue that was taken out of context.
"I basically said officers shouldn't remain stationary in front of bars, that they should quickly go in and out and that otherwise it makes them look like overpaid security guards," he said.
Neither memo should have been sent out, Keegan said.
"It's unfair because it doesn't give me a chance to tell my side of the story," he said.
The Beach Reporter - Jan. 6, 2005
Hermosa Beach News
Thousands ring in New Year on Pier Plaza (1/6)
By Whitney Youngs
As in years past, a sea of visitors and residents once again gathered on the pier plaza in downtown Hermosa Beach for this year's annual New Year's Eve celebration that police characterized as less raucous compared to previous years with no reports of serious injury.
Thousands of people attended the city-sponsored celebration and listened to the swinging sounds of Big Band 2000, which performed on a temporary stage constructed on the plaza. People donning festive holiday party hats and outfits danced the night away, and mingled with friends and strangers awaiting the final countdown led by Hermosa Beach Mayor Art Yoon.
According to Press Information Officer Sgt. Paul Wolcott, officers reported no serious crimes. However, police did notice an unsanctioned fireworks show with flares shooting off from the beach at the stroke of midnight. "We didn't have any major problems or fights, things went really well," said Wolcott. "There was a huge but very well-behaved crowd."
Wolcott estimated that between 2,000 to 3,000 people turned out for the event on the plaza and described the crowd as being very thin in the early evening and increasing in size closer to the countdown. "We were standing room only from Hermosa Avenue down to The Strand," added Wolcott. "It was just really great and everyone had a really good time. There were a lot of families out and all of the restaurants had some great business. Hennessey's even had a New York-style ball drop."
It was South Bay resident Grace Davis' first time at the event where she came with friends. "I think this is a really great community event and even though I don't live here in Hermosa, I feel like the city has kind of welcomed me to ring in the New Year with it," she said.
As of press time, Wolcott was uncertain of the exact number of people arrested or cited for certain violations, but said the evening on the whole was fairly tame in that respect. "We had some arrests for drunk driving, some arrests for drunk in public and about three or four citations issued for open containers," he recalled. "There was nothing major. The only other thing that happened was that someone coordinated an impromptu, unauthorized, unsanctioned fireworks show at midnight on the beach. It must have been expensive because they were really high quality. But it was right at midnight and of course, it was illegal and had we caught them, we would have issued citations. But we were pretty tied up at midnight with other things."
A few members of the Hermosa Beach City Council - J.R. Reviczky, Yoon and Peter Tucker - were on hand for the countdown to the New Year. Big Band 2000 began playing at 8:30 p.m. and ended its performance at about 12:15 a.m. This year, the event cost the city an estimated $23,000, some of which was offset by donations. The celebration has been met with a great reception among residents who feel it's an event for Hermosa Beach people.
"Things went very smoothly," said Reviczky. "It was a smaller crowd and I thought there were more families this time, so it was a very uneventful evening. It was a good evening as far as behavior was concerned but it was also a good evening as far as celebrating the new year, so it was good all the way around."
Jared and Erin Nesbitt, residents of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, were out visiting for the holidays and enjoyed taking in the South Bay where they could spend New Year's Eve outside.
"Usually, we are inside a house, away from the snow and so this is quite a change for us to be able to stand here, look up at these huge palm trees and out at the beach when ringing in 2005," said Jared. "No wonder they call places like this paradise and the people who live here in this city are very lucky."
The Beach Reporter - Jan. 6, 2005
Hermosa Beach News
City honored in national magazine (1/6)
By Whitney Youngs
Hermosa Beach kicked off the new year in an auspicious way by once again making national headlines in this month's issue of Coastal Living magazine as the lead story in the publication's travel section.
Hermosa Beach made headlines last year as 2004's best beach on the U.S. mainland according to the national magazine Reader's Digest. Editors of the well-read publication chose Hermosa as the best beach as part of its "American's 100 Best" spread that also included categories like best fishing, roller coaster, layover and zoo. The publication has about 40 million readers.
According to Coastal Living's Senior Editor Susan Haynes, the nationwide publication has a circulation of 650,000 and a readership of 3 million. "Our topics cover homes, gardens, lifestyle, travel, food and entertaining within sight, sound, taste, touch or smell of saltwater with the exception being that we do some Great Lakes coverage," said Haynes. "We call that the North Coast. Our editorial boundaries, geographically speaking, are the Pacific Coast, the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, what we call the North Coast and we do dip our toes into the non-U.S. Caribbean, the Canadian coast and the coast of Mexico. When I say U.S. coast, that does include Alaska and Hawaii. This year we will be doing our first Central America story in Costa Rica."
In its January issue now at newsstands, Coastal Living features the tiny beach town over a three-page spread in which writer Heather John opens the piece by remarking about the city's rich surfing history from the 1940s through the 1960s. "Heather lives in Southern California. She actually is a senior editor at Bon Appetite magazine and she has done a lot of freelance for us over the years," added Haynes. "She and I used to work together for a wine magazine up in the Napa Valley. I came to Coastal Living and she went to the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine and then moved over to Bon Appetite. I am always eager to get her ideas and suggestions for Southern California coverage and she had pitched Hermosa Beach as a great little beach town."
John goes on to describe the pier plaza and the city's unique and thriving downtown area both in the daytime and evening.
"The drive down palmy Pier Avenue spills onto the town square and the 104-year-old Hermosa Pier," states the piece. "Boutiques selling surf wear, antiques and knickknacks line the streets. At dusk, lights sparkle from tree fronds, and young, suntanned crowds mingle on Pier Avenue at Aloha Sharkeez sports bar and Patrick Malloy's. Nearby, The Strand - an impressive beachfront path that runs south from Santa Monica - is home to old-school haunts such as the retro Mermaid and its neighbor, The Poop Deck."
John also wrote in detail about the amenities and services offered at the Beach House where she stayed anonymously for about three or four days. Coastal Living, based in Birmingham, Ala., is a member of the publishing giant Southern Progress Corporation that is more than 100 years old. It has been a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. since 1985. The firm also prints magazines like Cooking Light, Health, Southern Living, Southern Accents, Progressive Farmer and Cottage Living. The magazine was launched in May 1997 and will put out nine issues this year and 10 issues in 2006.
John also goes on to mention Martha's 22nd Street Grill as a hot spot for brunch, Hama Hermosa as a restaurant where you can find decent-priced sushi and avant garde cocktails, the Comedy & Magic Club where you can stop by and take in acts by Jay Leno and Ray Romano, and Gallery C as the new venue generating a great deal of attention as one of the few emerging efforts within Hermosa's burgeoning art scene.
City-sponsored events don't go without notice as John also makes reference to the Fiesta Hermosa events, Sunset Concerts and Aloha Days along with the city's beloved Surfer's Walk of Fame. "The chamber has invested a good portion of Fiesta profits to our Visitors Bureau marketing plan and the results have certainly been great," said Carla Merriman, the chamber's executive director. "We can now add a top travel story in Coastal Living magazine to our designation as 'Best Beach Town' by the Travel Channel and 'Best Beach' by Reader's Digest."
The Daily Breeze – January 2, 2005
Police: Increase in DUIs in 2005
On New Year's holiday, 87 alcohol-related arrests are made countywide, with 27 in South Bay.
In Hermosa Beach, crowds on Pier Avenue were down during the evening, but the plaza from The Strand to Hermosa Avenue was standing-room-only at midnight, police Sgt. Paul Wolcott said. A few skirmishes occurred, including at the 705 club, and a few people were cited for public drunkenness, but overall the crowd was well-behaved.
A dejected veteran South Bay traffic officer said Saturday that so many people were drinking and driving on the New Year's holiday, a police task force found it difficult to keep up with them.
Officers made 27 drunken driving arrests, up from a usual number in the teens, Gardena police traffic Investigator Carl Freeman said. "It was incredible," said Freeman, a member of the South Bay Regional Driving Under the Influence Task Force.
"It appears to me that those who choose to drink and drive just don't understand the seriousness of what they are doing." Overall, during 10 days of task force patrols, arrests were down. Police cited the bad weather for keeping people at home. This year, 187 people found themselves in jail in patrols before Christmas and New Year's, compared to 213 last year.
But officers found so many people intoxicated in their cars on New Year's Eve and in the early hours of the new year, they chose to keep patrolling beyond their 3 a.m. cutoff and stayed on the streets until 5 a.m.
In the last three nights of patrols, DUI task force officers made 75 arrests, compared to 58 in 2003 and 56 in 2002. "It's disconcerting as a citizen, as well as an officer," Freeman said.
"There was nothing major as far as significant injuries or significant pursuits. There were just a lot of people who ingested a lot of alcohol and unfortunately many of them chose to drive."
The DUI task force -- comprised of officers from the California Highway Patrol, Palos Verdes Estates, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Gardena, El Camino College and sheriff's deputies assigned to Lawndale -- annually work the holidays to take intoxicated motorists off the street.
Patrols moved throughout the South Bay, and arrests occurred in each city. Freeman made arrests in Inglewood, Torrance and Hermosa Beach. One police unit made six arrests in Gardena. One man who spent the night in jail was from Michigan, apparently in town to attend the Rose Bowl game.
Whether he made it to the game in Pasadena was unknown, because "well, we got his car," Freeman said.
Most of those arrested were from the South Bay, Freeman said. Throughout the county, CHP officers arrested 87 motorists on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, eight more than last year's total of 79.
Statewide, officers made 485 DUI arrests, compared to 481 last year. In Hawthorne, police officers chased and arrested a couple of drivers who turned out to be intoxicated, Hawthorne police Lt. Dennis Barberic said. In Carson, deputies arrested a suspected drunken driver who crashed into a couple of parked cars in the west end of the city, deputies said.
Alcohol also played a role in disturbances at Latitudes on Harbor Drive, where Redondo Beach officers used pepper spray and their batons to disperse some people trying to break into a private party. At 10:40 p.m. Friday, police received a call that 150 people were trying to rush the door, Redondo Beach police Sgt. Phil Keenan said.
Officers dispersed the crowd, but were called again at 1:30 a.m. Saturday when another 150 people were trying to get in. No one was arrested or hurt. Officers from Torrance and Hermosa Beach arrived to help, and a police helicopter patrolled from the air. Officers were called to a fight at Denny's at 3:40 a.m. Saturday, but when they arrived, the participants split in different directions, Keenan said.
At 11:30 p.m. New Year's Eve, officers from Redondo Beach, Torrance and Hermosa Beach raced to Old Tony's restaurant on the Redondo Beach pier when someone called police on a cellular telephone to report that two men with guns had entered the restaurant, taken hostages and ordered everyone to lie prone on the floor, Keenan said.
Police arrived and found the call was bogus. "There is information to lead us to the person that made the call," Keenan said. "The investigation is ongoing."
In Hermosa Beach, crowds on Pier Avenue were down during the evening, but the plaza from The Strand to Hermosa Avenue was standing-room-only at midnight, police Sgt. Paul Wolcott said. A few skirmishes occurred, including at the 705 club, and a few people were cited for public drunkenness, but overall the crowd was well-behaved.
Wolcott said celebrants in the plaza seemed to enjoy a Times Square-style ball that was dropped from the roof of Hennessey's Tavern at midnight. "Everybody seemed to be having a real good time," Wolcott said. "We didn't have any major incidents at all."
Wolcott said that more taxis were needed to take passengers from the area. Some people were still waiting for rides at 3:15 a.m., long after the bars closed.
Police and deputies in the Harbor Area, Carson and Hawthorne said reports of gunfire at midnight were significantly down and that messages warning against the activity were working.
As far as alcohol, however, Freeman said the South Bay DUI task force will become more vigilant in the coming year with state-funded sobriety checkpoints in several cities and task force operations once a month, as well as the holiday period.
The Daily Breeze – December 17, 2004
3 convicted for armed carjacking in Hermosa
Jury acquits the fourth suspect whose attorney said was just hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Jurors this week convicted three of four young men who were on trial for an armed Hermosa Beach carjacking that spawned two high-speed police pursuits.
They also found one of the three, 23-year-old ex-convict Danuyel Ezikiel Bryant, guilty of an earlier kidnapping, robbery and carjacking in Beverly Hills. The Torrance Superior Court jury deliberated about two days after approximately six days of testimony.
Marcus Ramsey, 23, was convicted of carjacking and evading police. The jury found that he used a firearm during the July 29 carjacking of a disc jockey in a dark parking lot.
Ramsey told Mark Pacheco to give him his Chevrolet Tahoe, then pointed a gun at Pacheco's chest. When a Hermosa Beach patrol car drove up, Pacheco yelled to the officer and Ramsey drove off in the Tahoe.
Police spotted him at Rosecrans Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard, and he led them on a high-speed chase through several red lights until an officer bumped the Tahoe with his car on Century Boulevard near Denker Avenue. A gun was found under the front passenger seat. Ramsey's attorney admitted his client committed the carjacking, but argued there was not enough evidence to prove he used a gun.
Bryant and William Leander Jones, 22, who was driving the Mercedes-Benz that Bryant stole in Beverly Hills, were also convicted of the armed carjacking, while Jones was found guilty of evading police for a chase that went the wrong way down one-way streets, then on to The Strand in Hermosa and the beach.
When the car got stuck in the sand, Bryant got out and ran toward the ocean. Prosecutors believe he threw a gun into the waves, while his defense attorney argued he was gesturing his frustration at being caught.
Attorneys for Bryant and Jones argued to the jury that their clients were not in on the carjacking of the Tahoe. Bryant stole the Mercedes-Benz on July 16 after approaching a woman in the car in her garage, tapping on the window with the gun and asking for her money.
Despite her pleas to stay outside, Bryant also took the woman back into her home and stole $600 cash and jewelry before leaving in her car. The three are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 27 by Judge William R. Hollingsworth Jr.
Bryant faces a maximum 50 years to life in prison, Ramsey 19 years and eight months and Jones 10 years and eight months, according to Deputy District Attorney Warren Kato.
"I was impressed with the diligent manner with which the jury deliberated," Kato said Thursday, a day after the verdict was reached. "They were certainly correct in rendering the three guilty verdicts. I obviously disagree with the one not guilty verdict, but I respect their decision."
The acquitted man, Tyrone Ramsey, Marcus Ramsey's 24-year-old cousin, was the only one to testify. He told the jury they went to Aloha Sharkeez on Hermosa Avenue and were looking for an after-hours club when his cousin got out of the car to go talk to someone.
Tyrone Ramsey said the carjacking wasn't planned, and his attorney argued to the jury that the only thing his client did wrong was hang out with "bad guys." During an interview Thursday, Tyrone Ramsey's attorney, Andrew Edward Smyth, said he thought his client should have never been put on trial. "I think he was telling the truth," Smyth said.
The other defense attorneys did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The Easy Reader – December 16, 2004
A jury has rejected claims
that a police officer assaulted a Hermosa businessman four years ago, closing
the latest chapter in a courtroom saga that has cost the city $250,000. The
Superior Court jury deliberated for about an hour-and-a-half on Friday, before
unanimously finding in favor of the city and Officer David Bohacik.
During the three-week trial an attorney for Hermosa locksmith Frank W. Hallstein Jr. claimed that Bohacik lunged at Hallstein and had to be restrained, then challenged the locksmith to a fight during a July 2000 incident at the Pier Plaza. Attorney Thomas Beck argued that Bohacik was angered for reasons involving Hallstein’s friendship with another officer who is unfriendly with Bohacik.
attorney for the city argued that Hallstein had “stalked” Bohacik, monitoring
police radio frequencies and following the officer to calls, deliberately
provoking the incident on the Plaza. Attorney Raymond Szu called the incident “a
15-second verbal argument that took place four years ago.”
Officer was disciplined
The incident, which occurred shortly after midnight July 22, 2000, was the subject of an internal investigation by the Police Department that resulted in a one-day suspension of Bohacik, at the time a 13-year veteran of the city police force.
In a confidential memo to the officer, then-Police Chief Val Straser wrote that Bohacik had violated a department rule by failing to be “courteous, civil and respectful” to a private citizen. “You believed Hallstein was looking in your direction, shaking his head back and forth, rolling his eyes and laughing at you,” Straser wrote to Bohacik. “Hallstein stated he noticed you snapping your head in a spastic manner and your eyes were buggy-like in rage.”
Bohacik told the locksmith to “stop the ‘bull**it’ of staring and ‘eye-f**king’” him, Straser wrote. “You then challenged Hallstein to meet you after work, without a uniform so you could settle the matter,” Straser wrote.
An exchange of insults followed, according to Straser: “At least I have a wife,” Hallstein said to Bohacik. “You call that a wife?” Bohacik said, referring to Hallstein’s spouse, who was not present. Straser did not conclude that Bohacik lunged at Hallstein.
The jury verdict on Friday marked the second court decision in favor of the city. Hallstein initially filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court, which a judge dismissed. Hallstein then turned to the state superior court to file the assault lawsuit.
Hermosa Beach Police Chief Mike Lavin said he was relieved by the jury’s verdict, and complained that Hallstein “really had no case.” “Unfortunately the taxpayer is the loser in this,” Lavin said.
The city spent $250,000 to cover what is in effect the maximum insurance deductible for any individual claim, Hermosa Beach Risk Manager Michael Earl said. After that money was spent, additional legal fees and expenses were paid out of a 30-city insurance pool to which Hermosa belongs.
Beck said he took Hallstein’s case on contingency, expecting that the locksmith would be awarded damages in federal court. Beck billed Hallstein for no fees, but did bill for his court-related expenses. Hallstein said that figure totaled about $20,000.
Trading stalking charges
During closing arguments in the lawsuit last week, Szu told the six-woman, six-man jury that Hallstein “stalked” Bohacik on more than 70 occasions, listening to police radio frequencies and showing up at the scene of crimes and other calls. In efforts to keep the officer and the locksmith apart, Bohacik worked graveyard shifts at times, and was sent to calls via an email system that could not be monitored on the police radio frequencies, Szu said.
Szu contended that Hallstein has “a strange fixation” with police officers. The attorney told the jury that on one occasion a Hermosa police sergeant was chasing some carjacking suspects on foot, when he turned to see Hallstein running alongside him.
Beck said that as a locksmith Hallstein often winds up in the same place as police officers, and in addition Hallstein monitors the radio frequencies and shows up at scenes of police activity to exercise his right to keep an eye on government operations. “He’s a watchdog,” Beck told the jury. Hallstein does not interfere with officers and they are used to his presence, Beck said. “They know Frank Hallstein is a police groupie,” Beck said.
On the stalking front, Beck said it was Bohacik who followed the locksmith around, and the officer was told repeatedly by police superiors to avoid Hallstein and his wife. “Who’s stalking who?” Beck asked the jury. “I’m making an appointment with my doctor to see if maybe I’m dyslexic, because every time I’m supposed to be stalking this guy he’s following me,” Hallstein said.
Beck said that an appeal of the jury verdict is possible. “It’s not over,” Hallstein said. ER
The Daily Breeze – December 15, 2004
Jurors hear closing in Hermosa carjack case
The jury must now consider the roles each of the four men on trial had when they were arrested for the alleged armed car robbery of a disc jockey.
Jurors on Monday began sorting out the roles four young men took in a Hermosa Beach armed carjacking and the two high-speed police pursuits that followed. During closing arguments in the case before the jury began deliberations, one defense attorney told the jury his client did take the car in a carjacking, but said there was no evidence he used a gun to do it.
The others' attorneys argued their clients were not in on the crime, with one attorney adding that his client's only wrongdoing was getting "in a car with a den of thieves."
But Deputy District Attorney Warren Kato argued that even though only one used a gun in a dark parking lot to carjack a disc jockey, the evidence shows all of them were involved. "You better believe every one of them is there to back each other up," Kato told the Torrance Superior Court jury Thursday.
Trial before Judge William R. Hollingsworth Jr. began Dec. 1. All four are facing charges for the armed carjacking. Marcus Ramsey, 23, who allegedly used the gun, is also accused of evading police for leading officers on a chase in the stolen Chevrolet Tahoe, as is William Leander Jones, 22, who led police in a pursuit in a Mercedes-Benz that had been stolen in Beverly Hills two weeks before.
Mark Pacheco, a disc jockey at the Dragon, testified that Ramsey approached him as he was loading equipment into his Tahoe about 2:30 a.m. on July 29. Ramsey demanded Pacheco give over his keys or he was "gonna (expletive) you up," Pacheco testified.
Then Ramsey allegedly pointed a gun at his chest. Just then, a Hermosa Beach police officer drove up and Pacheco yelled to him.
Jones drove off in the Mercedes, leading the officer on a high-speed pursuit that took them the wrong way down one-way streets, The Strand and onto the beach, according to the officer's testimony.
After nearly hitting a sleeping transient, the car became stuck in the sand. Danuyel Ezikiel Bryant, 23, ran from the car toward the water, where an officer said he saw him heave something into the ocean before giving up. Although nothing was found, the prosecution wanted the jury to infer that Bryant tossed the gun into the water.
Jones and Tyrone Ramsey, 24, Marcus Ramsey's cousin, were arrested inside the car. Tyrone Ramsey was the only defendant who testified. He denied that the crime was planned and said he was drunk and only remembers discussing women, not cars.
Tyrone Ramsey said they went to Sharkeez on Pier Avenue and were looking for an after-hours club when his cousin got out of the Mercedes to talk to someone. His attorney, Andrew Edward Smyth, reminded the jury that his client works for the U.S. Postal Service and doesn't need to steal for his money. Tyrone Ramsey just wanted to "walk on the wild side" and ended up in the car "with a den of thieves," Smyth added, causing the other defense attorneys to object.
Jones' attorney, Alternate Deputy Public Defender Jabe Kahnke, said there is no question his client evaded police, but said it doesn't amount to a felony because there wasn't any proof he put anyone in harm's way.
Kahnke also argued there was evidence that the carjacking was not planned because Jones and the other men knew that the area around Sharkeez at that time of night has extra police patrols "to keep a lid on bar fights and drunk drivers."
Bryant is also charged with robbing, carjacking and kidnapping the woman who owns the Mercedes on July 16 in her Beverly Hills garage. The woman told the jury he ordered her out of the car at gunpoint and, despite her pleas to stay outside, took her back into her house and stole $600 and some jewelry, according to Kato.
The woman identified Bryant in court as the man who stole from her, Kato reminded the jury.
But Bryant's attorney, Nancy Sperber, said there were alternative explanations for some of the evidence.
For instance, there is no proof Bryant tossed anything to the ocean, and said the gesture could have been more of an "Oh, shucks." Like when someone is trying to run away on the beach, they reach water "and realize they can't swim to China," Sperber explained.
Sperber also argued that the identification of Bryant as the perpetrator of the Beverly Hills crimes was shaky, especially because the victim didn't notice a pronounced scar and tattoos on Bryant's neck. In addition, she argued that there was only one crime -- a continuous robbery -- not three separate crimes.
Marcus Ramsey, who was spotted at Sepulveda Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue in Pacheco's Tahoe minutes after the carjacking, led police through stop signs at speeds sometimes reaching 90 mph before an officer used his patrol car to ram the SUV on Century Boulevard near Denker Avenue. Officers pulled Ramsey from the car and a gun was found under the front passenger seat, an officer testified.
Marcus Ramsey's attorney, Simon Aval, conceded that his client carjacked the Tahoe, but argued there was no evidence he used a gun. Aval told the jury it would be difficult for his client to stash the weapon under the passenger's seat while driving so fast, and added it would be more reasonable to believe he would have thrown it out the window if he had one.
"Where did it come from?" Aval asked of the gun. "I don't know."
The Daily Breeze – December 2, 2004
Trial under way for 4 men in HB carjacking case
Disc jockey tells jury he was confronted by a man with a gun.
Trial began Wednesday for four men who led police in two different pursuits following an armed carjacking in Hermosa Beach. Mark Pacheco, a disc jockey at the Dragon on Pier Avenue, told the Torrance Superior Court jury he left work just before 2:30 a.m. July 29 and was confronted by a man with a gun at his Chevrolet Tahoe parked in a lot north of the plaza.
Pacheco identified Marcus Ramsey, 23, as the man who exited a Mercedes-Benz, reached into his baggy pants and pulled out a gun. Pacheco said he felt metal on his chest and "looked down enough to realize there was a gun." He took a step back and handed Ramsey his keys. Just then, a Hermosa Beach police officer drove into the lot.
Officer Michael Frilot testified he pulled into the parking lot and saw what looked like an altercation. As he drove closer, one of them yelled to him, "Someone just pointed a gun at me," and motioned toward the SUV as it drove away, Frilot said.
The man also pointed to the Mercedes-Benz parked next to Frilot's patrol car and yelled, "And those guys, too." Frilot said he saw three young men in the Mercedes look at him. The Mercedes went in reverse, almost hitting the patrol car, and sped through the parking lot before turning west on 13th Street, which is one-way in the opposite direction.
With lights and sirens on, Frilot said he followed the Mercedes as it traveled 40 to 50 mph on 13th Street, several residential streets and The Strand, where speeds reached 60 to 70 mph.
The Strand, which is meant for pedestrians and bicycles, usually has people walking home from the bars that time of night, Frilot said. The only person he said he saw was a transient sleeping in the sand a foot or two away from where the Mercedes drove on to the beach just north of 11th Street.
When the Mercedes stopped, the front passenger door opened and a man later identified as Danuyel Ezikiel Bryant, 23, ran under the Hermosa Beach Pier until he was knee-deep in the ocean, Frilot said. Bryant appeared to "lob" something into the water, Frilot said, which police believed was a gun, although no weapon was ever recovered. Bryant then put his hands up and said, "I give up," Frilot said.
Also arrested in the Mercedes were William Leander Jones, 22, and Tyrone Maurice Ramsey, who is Marcus Ramsey's 24-year-old brother. About 10 minutes later, Manhattan Beach police officers spotted the Chevy Tahoe at Rosecrans Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard waiting at a red light with its headlights off.
Officer Kristopher Thompson said he tried to pull over the SUV, but it continued on to Aviation Boulevard, where it turned left and accelerated to 80 to 90 mph, blowing through red lights, until it reached Century Boulevard.
Thompson bumped the back of the SUV near Denker Avenue and the Tahoe spun out allowing officers to pull Ramsey from the driver's seat, Thompson said. A gun was found under the seat, Thompson said. Officers brought Pacheco to where the pursuit ended and, when he saw Ramsey, told Thompson: "That's the (expletive) that jacked me," Thompson said during questioning by Deputy District Attorney Warren Kato.
All four men are on trial before Judge William R. Hollingsworth Jr. on carjacking charges. Ramsey is facing additional charges that he used a firearm while the others are accused of participating in a crime in which a firearm was used. In addition, Ramsey and Jones are charged with evading a police officer.
During the trial, which is expected to last until next week, the jury will also hear evidence that the Mercedes was stolen July 16 in Beverly Hills. Bryant, who has prior convictions, is charged with carjacking and kidnapping for that crime.
The Daily Breeze – November 23, 2004
Suspected gang members arrested in HB carjacking
Two Lawndale teenagers took a sport utility vehicle from a frightened couple at knifepoint and crashed into another vehicle in a botched scramble to escape, Hermosa Beach police said Monday.
Emmanuel Gerardo, 18, and a 17-year-old boy, both suspected gang members, were taken into custody following a struggle with police officers. A knife was recovered, Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott said.
The carjacking Sunday afternoon occurred moments after the pair failed in an attempt to steal another man's car, Wolcott said. Shortly before 5 p.m., a Hermosa Beach man driving his car into the alley in the 100 block of Palm Drive saw the teens in a friend's garage.
"He knew that the two didn't belong there," Wolcott said.
The man confronted the teens and called police on his cellular telephone, but immediately sped away when the 17-year-old walked up to him and pulled a knife. The teens ran to Hermosa Avenue at Herondo Street, where they confronted a 33-year-old man and 30-year-old woman who had just entered their parked car.
"One of the suspects produced a knife and the other told the victims that he had a gun," Wolcott said. "They demanded that the victims get out of the 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe. Fearing for their lives, the victims complied."
The carjackers sped north in the Tahoe on Hermosa Avenue. Meanwhile, the first man was still on the telephone with police and arrived to find the second carjacking victims, Wolcott said.
The teens raced at high speed and made their way to southbound Valley Drive, where they ran a stop sign at Second Street, crashed into an eastbound Mercedes-Benz, and veered onto the greenbelt. The teens ran from the disabled Tahoe through an apartment complex to Pacific Coast Highway and First Street. Witnesses to the crash followed them and directed officers where to find them.
Gerardo and the 17-year-old, whose name was not released because of his age, struggled with officers but were taken into custody. Officers recovered the knife but no gun was located.
Police arrested the pair on suspicion of carjacking, attempted carjacking, trespassing, hit and run and armed robbery. Gerardo was held on $100,000 bail at the Hermosa Beach jail. The juvenile was taken to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, where he also was held on $100,000 bail.
"The suspects have gang affiliations and extensive criminal backgrounds, including arrests for grand theft auto," Wolcott said.
The Beach Reporter – November 25, 2004
Hermosa Beach News
Two nabbed in carjackings (11/25)
By Whitney Youngs
Hermosa Beach Police Monday arrested two teenagers for reportedly carjacking two local residents at knifepoint near the corner of Hermosa Avenue and Herondo Street. Officers arrested and charged 18-year-old Emmanuel Gerardo of Lawndale and an unidentified 17-year-old juvenile also from Lawndale, for carjacking, attempted carjacking, trespassing, felony hit and run, and armed robbery.
According to Press Information Officer Sgt. Paul Wolcott, a Hermosa Beach resident drove his car down an alley in the 100 block of Palm Drive at about 4:55 p.m. Monday afternoon. He noticed the two suspects standing in a friend's garage and felt they didn't belong there. "The Hermosan confronted the two suspects about their business in the garage," stated Wolcott. "Concurrent with his contacting the suspects, the Hermosan called police on his cell phone. The juvenile suspect approached the Hermosan and produced a knife. In fear for his life, the victim immediately fled from the suspects."
The two men then traveled to the scene of the second carjacking where they approached two other victims - a 33-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman - both of Hermosa Beach. The two victims were getting into a parked car when the suspect approached them. "One of the suspects produced a knife and the other told the victims that he had a gun," explained Wolcott. "They demanded that the victims get out of the 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe. In fear for their lives, the victims complied with the suspect's demand."
The two suspects drove north on Hermosa Avenue. It was at this time that the first victim drove up and found the second victims near the corner of Herondo Street and Hermosa Avenue. "The first victim was still on the telephone with police dispatchers," stated Wolcott. "The additional information of the second carjacking was given to police dispatchers."
The two suspects eventually made their way onto Valley Drive heading south at what police describe at a high rate of speed. The suspect who was driving the car ran the stop sign at Second Street and crashed into a Mercedes Benz, which was traveling east on Second Street. After the crash, the suspects were unable to drive the SUV, which ended up on the Greenbelt, and fled the scene.
"The Mercedes driver ended up in the hospital with injuries," reported Wolcott. "The two suspects ran away through an apartment complex and ended up in the area of Pacific Coast Highway at First Street. Witnesses to the crash followed the suspects and directed responding officers to their location."
Following a brief struggle with officers, the suspects were handcuffed and taken into custody. Police never found a gun but did recover a knife that they believe was used in both carjackings. According to Wolcott, the suspects have associations with gangs and both have extensive criminal backgrounds that include arrests for grand theft auto. Both suspects are being held on $100,000 bail.
The Daily Breeze – November 8, 2004
DEA officer injured in Hermosa Beach hit-run
The agent rolled onto the car's windshield after the impact and injured his head and had deep cuts to his back.
An off-duty undercover Drug Enforcement Agency officer was hit by a car that sped off early Saturday in Hermosa Beach, officials said.
The agent was crossing the street at Gould Avenue and Valley Drive about 2 a.m. when a compact car driving west on Gould ran through two stoplights, said DEA spokesman Jose Martinez. The agent tried to avoid the car, but it hit him.
The agent rolled onto the car's windshield after the impact and injured his head and had deep cuts to his back, Martinez said. The agent did not require hospitalization, but will be off work for at least a month, he said.
The car was dark blue or black, possibly a Honda, with damage to the windshield, Martinez said. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Hermosa Beach Police Department at 310-318-0360 or the DEA at 213-621-6714.
The Daily Breeze – November 5, 2004
Man who filmed girls in Hermosa to be tried
Hermosa Police arrested convicted molester Robert Romo and found videotapes of the children in his possession.
A convicted child molester will stand trial for secretly videotaping the buttocks and crotches of little girls playing in the sand in Hermosa Beach and Long Beach, a judge ruled Thursday.
Based on the testimony of two Hermosa Beach police officers who arrested and investigated Robert Edward Romo, 44, Torrance Superior Court Judge Francis J. Hourigan said there is enough evidence to hold Romo on three charges of child molesting with a prior conviction.
Romo's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Richard Kim, argued during the preliminary hearing that the case should be dismissed because his client did nothing more than view people through the lens of a video camera.
Kim rhetorically asked Hourigan if someone could be charged and convicted for just standing on the beach watching girls. "If that's correct, then I would suggest we need to arrest a lot of people at the beach," Kim quipped.
But Deputy District Attorney Jodi Link cited California law outlining the elements of child molesting, which include that the perpetrator is motivated by unnatural or abnormal sexual interest. Hourigan ordered that Romo continue to be held in jail without bail and set a Nov. 17 date for his arraignment.
A portion of the videotape, which Hourigan did not watch, shows a little girl in a blue bathing suit playing in the sand, the waves breaking behind her.
She is one of four girls depicted in the videotape found inside the videocamera that Romo was carrying when he was arrested Aug. 15 for public intoxication, according to officer Eric Cahalan. Cahalan said cardboard and a shirt were adhered to the camera by black tape.
Sgt. Steve Endom testified that the video is an hour and a half long, and about a third of it focuses on the unknown girls' crotches and buttocks. "They're all under the age of 10, easily," Endom said.
"Anytime a subject is in the picture, that subject was a little girl," Endom added.
The day after his arrest, Romo told Endom that he found the videocamera and tapes in the trash, and concealed it when he admittedly taped the girls' private areas because he did not want to offend them or be caught by their parents, Endom testified.
Romo said he was videotaping the girls for art studies, adding that he could not obtain pictures of their buttocks any other way, Endom said.
During a search of Romo's Long Beach home, more tapes were found, but no art supplies, Endom said. Endom said he seized seven videotapes, and has since reviewed most of them -- which all feature girls' buttocks and crotches.
Romo was convicted in 1999 for secretly videotaping up the skirts of girls and women at Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance. He walked around with the lens pointed up and a sweater concealing the camera, according to police.
From: The Hermosa Beach City Council Meeting of May 25, 2004
May 20, 2004
Honorable Mayor and Members of The Hermosa Beach City Council
Regular meeting of May 25, 2004
RECOMMENDATION TO DENY
AT TJ CHARLYZ (1332 HERMOSA AVENUE)
Staff recommends that Council:
1. Make a recommendation to the Department of the Alcoholic Beverage Control to reject the application by TJ Charlyz Nightclub and Restaurant to change their existing alcohol license to allow dancing in their establishment.
TJ Charlyz Nightclub and Restaurant at 1332 Hermosa Avenue was issued a type 47alcohol license by the ABC in December of 1996. One of the conditions of the license (condition #5) was no dancing allowed on the premises. Recently, officials of the ABC working with members of the Hermosa Beach Police Department observed that TJ Charlyz was allowing dancing in their establishment. The owner, Mr. Steve Dahdah, was advised by the ABC of the violation of this condition. During April of 2004, Mr. Dahdah applied to the ABC to modify his alcohol license to allow dancing in his establishment. The ABC has formally notified the City of this request to change the license and the City has the opportunity to file a written objection to the modification of this license if it so desires. The Police Department objects to the change in Mr. Dahdah’s alcohol license.
The Police Department has become very concerned with the operations of the nightclub TJ Charlyz. Long before the police department became aware that TJ Charlyz was prohibited from having dancing, our officers have become very concerned about the rowdy behavior at this business. Officers have encountered a number of confrontational patrons. As a result our police officers have had to deal with a number of situations at this establishment. Recently on March 27, 2004 a large fight broke out at TJ’s and a crowd of about 100 persons were dispersed from the area of the bar. Our officers have found and cited persons under the age of 21 drinking inside of the business. The police department has also received information from neighboring police departments regarding gang members patronizing this nightclub.
The owner has expressed concern to our officers about the difficulty of his business competing with the other popular bars and nightclubs of the downtown area. Our foot patrol officers must make a point to monitor activities inside of this particular nightclub because of the rowdy behavior. This is not the case at other adjacent nightclubs such as the Café’ Boogaloo and Sharks Cove where a more noticeably different and well-behaved clientele patronize these businesses.
The applicant has been aware of the fact that he was not to have dancing since 1996. However, our officers can attest to the fact that there has been dancing at TJ Charlyz for the past few months. Even after TJ Charlyz was informed of the fact that they could not have dancing, dancing continued. Our officers observed dancing inside TJ’s over the weekend of May 15-16, 2004. This is an example of the applicant’s disregard to the conditions imposed by his alcohol license.
While the Police Department is not opposed to dancing in general, the Police Department is concerned about the daily operation of this particular nightclub considering its past. It is felt that if the applicant is allowed to have dancing in the establishment, the same type of rowdy crowd will continue to show up as patrons. Therefore, the Police Department objects to changing this condition in this alcohol license.
MICHAEL LAVIN, CHIEF OF POLICE
HERMOSA BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT
From: The Hermosa Beach City Council Meeting of October 26, 2004
October 14, 2004
Honorable Mayor and Members of Regular Meeting of
the Hermosa Beach City Council October 26, 2004
REQUEST TO RECONSIDER OBJECTION TO DANCING AT TJ CHARLYZ
That the City Council consider the attached letter requesting reconsideration your action of
May 25, 2004 which was to write a letter to ABC objecting to a change in the ABC license
to allow dancing at TJ Charlyz.
TJ Charlyz has submitted a letter asking the City Council to reconsider its decision to file a
letter of objection to the ABC license amendment to allow dancing at this business. Copies of
the letter of objection, the May 25, 2004 staff report, minutes, and a memo from the Police Chief
are attached for your information on the request.
The memo from the Police Chief basically states that the problems and concerns that came from
this business have been greatly reduced since they have discontinued dancing. This seems to
indicate that at least some of the problems that had been observed at the business were associated
The Police Chief feels that it is likely that with the reintroduction of dancing that we will see the problems
This is a concern because once the ABC license is granted it is very difficult to have the license changed to
prohibit dancing. The concerns that the Police Department expressed in May have been addressed and the
business is operating now without any particular problems.
Staff, appreciates the efforts made by the business owner, but feels that with the addition of dancing we will
see a return of the problems and therefore recommends that the City Council not consider withdrawing the
objection filed as the result of the City Council action on May 25, 2004.
Stephen R. Burrell
The Beach Reporter - October 28, 2004
Hermosa Beach News
By Whitney Youngs
HB City Council summary (10/28) –
The City Council agreed to write a letter to the ABC in support of a change in the Alcoholic Beverage Control license of TJ Charly'z to allow for dancing inside the establishment. With the support of the council, it also requested that it review the business's activity in three months and at six months. The ABC reserves final judgment on the matter but takes into consideration the position of any particular city on a certain matter.
A memo from Police Chief Mike Lavin stated that the problems associated with this bar/restaurant have been greatly reduced since the discontinuation of dancing. Lavin believes that with an reintroduction of dancing, the same problems will arise again.
However, the council heard the pleas of the owner claiming that this prohibition is severely affecting his bottom line and agreed to write the letter supporting a change to the ABC.
New Year's Eve - The council voted to approve the city's annual New Year's Eve celebration slated for Dec. 31 on the pier plaza. The cost to host the function is $22,500 with an additional $3,500 allocated for items such as cleanup crews and lighting. Most of the funds are spent on the live music act, Big Band 2000, that performs jazz and swing standards from 8 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. The affair draws thousands of locals to the downtown plaza on New Year's Eve with members of City Council leading the crowd in the countdown. Some describe the event as a miniature version of New Year's in New York City's Times Square.
200 Pier Ave. - Voting on more than 20 new conditions to the project, the City Council approved a large new commercial development that will be built at 200 Pier Ave. and calls for demolition of the existing building. Among the conditions, those who enter the site will be able to turn left only onto the alleyway, Bayview Drive, and right only onto Manhattan Avenue. The building will consist of more than 18,000 square feet in a series of four separate buildings connected by two levels of parking and a common open space area. The site will contain 45 commercial condominiums of 333 square feet each, used strictly for commercial as opposed to residential use. The development is designed as an "office campus" with contemporary styles like building facades, metal roofs, exposed beams and wood exteriors.
The Beach Reporter – August 12, 2004
Hermosa Beach News
HB Residents complain about plaza patrons (8/12)
By Whitney Youngs
In a public meeting, Hermosa Beach residents and business owners along with a few elected city officials and employees Aug. 4 discussed several ongoing issues that just don't ever seem to go away pertaining to the city's raucous nightlife in the downtown area and on the pier plaza. City officials fielded numerous complaints from residents who live in the nearby neighborhoods who are sick and tired of waking up in the middle of the night to drunken party animals, some of whom yell and scream down residential streets, urinate in front yards or vandalize private property.
Police Chief Mike Lavin commented on the present environment spanning roughly the past six months, and said that there have been no major incidents and the area overall has improved.
Newly appointed Planning Commissioner and lifetime resident Rick Koenig attended the meeting and said most of the issues discussed centered on a "fraternity-like atmosphere" in the downtown in which a handful of police officers are regulating a scene comprising hundreds of restaurant and bar patrons "I know a lot of people are fed up with the 'red cup syndrome' where people are walking around in public drinking openly," said Koenig, "and the urination and trash in everyone's yard, including mine. These kind of meetings are good in the sense that at least it allows people to vent instead of building up animosity and so it's a step in the right direction."
The public meeting, which began as proactive but eventually turned into a rather heated debate, provided residents with an opportunity to verbalize their frustrations and concerns about a downtown that attracts throngs of young people, both local and from out of town, most every weekend and on some weeknights.
"I think these problems can be fixed. We just need some positive solutions because if all we do is antagonize each other then that's all we've done," said City Councilman J.R. Reviczky. "Unfortunately, if you get 10 people in a room, one of them is going to be an idiot; with 100, 10 are going to be; and with 1,000, you have 100. That's really what the scenario is down there and anywhere. Half of the laws that are passed by government are passed because 10 percent of people have no respect for others. You have a lot of people down there and you have a lot of people down there spending money, you're going to have that 10-percent figure no matter what. That ratio stays the same and we'll always have to deal with that 10 percent.
"We used to staff officers that were on overtime and now we actually have a special shift down there which helps with overtime costs and gives those officers a better grasp of what is going on when you have the same people down there all the time. You have to give that a chance to work and I think that is the phase we are in right now."
The meeting also served as a platform in brainstorming solutions to such problems, which have been at the forefront in the city for years now. Planning Commissioner Sam Perotti also attended the meeting and suggested that at the next session an agenda be drafted as a way of providing a bit more structure. "I think there needs to be continued coordination between the business operators, and the Police and Fire departments. I think that in the long run, things will work out," he said. "In the past, the Planning Commission has modified business conditional use permits by limiting hours mainly based on excessive noise and that has been an effective resource."
Resident Al Benson has been a strong proponent of cracking down on bars and restaurants that become nightclubs in the evening that he believes serve as a breeding ground for much of the boisterous behavior of patrons.
"Of all the things that are going on down there, there are monetary costs - cleaning the plaza, police overtime - and then there are human costs, people are getting hurt and I'm tired of reading in the newspapers of police being attacked as well. All these costs, are they worth it?" said Benson. "It seems like even with implementing some solutions - like reducing noise and occupancy, enforcing underage drinking - but the number of people who come down there does not change and the age group does not change and the amount of alcohol really does not change, we won't have a real effect on alcohol-related crimes."
According to the city's quarterly statistical reports for 2003, the Police Department cited the largest number of adults arrested in more than a decade. According to the report, robbery stayed the same with 13 cases reported in 2002 and 2003. Both assaults and burglaries increased this year compared to 2002 with 140 reported assaults and 143 burglaries compared to 131 assaults and 118 burglaries reported in 2002. The number of reported D.U.I. arrests rose with 214 cases reported in 2002 and 285 cases reported in 2003.
Police transported more people to jail in 2003 with 1,012 adult arrests in 2002 and 1,315 adult arrests in 2003. The number of police calls for service increased this year from 28,728 to 32,241 while the number of disturbance calls dropped from 3,343 to 2,788.
In mid-February, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to review conditional use permits of Aloha Sharkeez and Sangria. "The thing that I don't think people really understand is that the downtown area in the overall picture in terms of parking, taxes, licenses is about $5 million to the city and people tend to forget what it was like 10 years ago," said Sharkeez owner Ron Newman. "For the amount of people who come down, it's pretty well-run. Most of the businesses are upscale and sell food, and it's not going to go away. The people who have businesses have a right to be here. If there are problems, then those problems need to be solved between the individual and the business, and it has to be solved realistically. Hermosa is what it is and without these businesses Hermosa wouldn't be able to survive. I think there should be a city liaison that someone could go to, and that person could meet with both the business and the citizen because if you don't try and solve these problems, no one is going to win."
At its February meeting, the commission reviewed an incident report drafted by Lavin that details the history of officer calls responding to incidents taking place inside or outside downtown restaurants and bars, and several along Pacific Coast Highway. "For the past several years, the city of Hermosa Beach has enjoyed a very popular downtown area," stated Lavin in his report. "In particular, the Hermosa night life has become very popular and several thousand patrons frequent the downtown nightclubs especially on the weekend nights. The Police Department has had to increase the amount of enforcement activity on the Hermosa plaza to keep a lid on the crowds and the associated public disturbances, assaults and public intoxication that have become very commonplace each evening between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m."
The Police Department staffs the plaza with foot patrol units on every night of the week with the exception of Monday and designates additional foot patrols on weekend nights. "All of this activity is paid through overtime and is costing the city several hundreds of thousands of dollars each year," added Lavin. "This activity on the plaza has also been the source of numerous personnel complaints against officers, claims against the city, lawsuits and injuries to officers."
According to Lavin's report, officers received 83 and 71 disturbance calls from Sangria and Aloha Sharkeez, respectively. The report tracks the history of calls from Dec. 1, 2002, to Jan. 10, 2004. Lavin also wanted to make it clear that such number of calls were made in front of an establishment, not necessarily inside of them. Because the two establishments ranked as the first and second in the highest number of calls among the 15 other restaurants and bars mostly located in downtown and some along PCH, Lavin asked the commission to review both CUPs. The commission will determine whether the CUPs were properly and adequately implemented as a way of controlling some of the problems that have come in the form of such disturbance calls.
Among the restaurants with the lowest number of calls, Patrick Malloy's was ranked the lowest with one call followed by the Poop Deck with two calls, the Hermosa Yacht Club and Caf/ Boogaloo with three calls, and the Mermaid restaurant and Barnacles tied for fourth place with five calls each. The report focuses on calls directly dealing with disturbances, assaults and public intoxication. Of the remaining establishments, Shark's Cove received six calls, followed by Pointe 705 with 10, Hennessey's with 11, TJ Charly'z and the North End Bar with 13, Hermosa Saloon with 16, the Pitcher House with 17, the Underground with 33 and the Lighthouse with 45.
Carla Merriman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, commented on the "red cup" drinking scene and expressed satisfaction in knowing that the bars have begun to take initiative in recent months. "It was good to hear that the bars are cleaning up their act," she said. "I think that more information should be given to residents regarding the value of these businesses on the plaza - Sangria, Sharkeez and Hennessey's are consistently among the top 25 sales tax producers. When I hear residents talking about people on The Strand with red cups and blaming the establishments for that, I think it's ridiculous. The restaurants and bars do not pour drinks to go. I think we need to work in the community as a whole and whatever the chamber can do to help, we would like to as a way to move in a more positive direction."
Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza Renovation was completed in 1997
Hermosa Beach Crime Statistics
Categories that have shown an increase from 1998 to 2003
Year Rape Burglary Non-Injury ALL DUI Criminal ALL Total
Auto Acc. Assaults Citations Arrests Calls for Service
1998 -- 8 113 201 77 150 562 624 19,951
1999 -- 6 118 170 119 203 613 692 21,378
2000 -- 6 145 195 97 152 545 629 25,147
2001 -- 9 104 176 141 170 668 873 32,422
2002 -- 15 118 202 131 214 943 1,027 28,728
2003 -- 11 143 258 140 285 989 1,343 32,241
Hermosa Beach Crime Statistics
Categories Percentage Increase from 1998 to 2003
Rape Burglary Non-Injury ALL DUI Criminal All Total
Auto Acc. Assaults Citations Arrests Calls for Service
Up Up Up Up Up Up Up Up
37 % 26 % 28 % 81 % 90 % 75 % 115 % 61 %
Crime Statistics from: The Hermosa Beach Police Department
The Daily Breeze – August 6, 2004
Hermosa Beach resumes talks to rein in Pier Avenue Plaza nightlife
By Dennis Johnson, Daily Breeze
The complaints have become a familiar refrain for Hermosa Beach. Public drunkenness. Excessive noise. Graffiti and vandalism. Late-night revelers urinating in residents' yards.
And for the umpteenth time, city officials, residents and business owners sat down Wednesday night to listen to the complaints and contemplate solutions for the problems associated with the city's Pier Avenue Plaza. The latest round of discussions comes about six months after Police Chief Michael Lavin issued a report to the City Council stating that officers were facing an increased threat of violence from downtown patrons.
In the months since, Lavin said, patrol officers have stepped up crowd enforcement, cited those with fake IDs and helped quell potential problems. "They've written a lot of citations and they've made a big impact on underage drinking," Lavin told the room of about two dozen residents.
Police believe that by controlling overcrowding and underage drinking, they can rein in the fights and violence that have earned the street the nickname "Thunderdome" after the Mad Max movie.
Many in attendance agreed a solution is needed before something big breaks out downtown, the focus of which should be the bars and restaurants that draw thousands each weekend. "I think we need to tone it down," City Manager Steve Burrell said.
"I think there are some problems with businesses down there," Community Development Director Sol Blumenfeld said.
Ron Newman, the owner of Aloha Sharkeez, said that the ultimate solution should involve the bars, the residents and the city, since the Plaza's businesses aren't changing anytime soon.
To this, resident Becher Anderson said that the bar owners need to curb the problems, because the citizens of the town owe them nothing. "The question is, how do you control 2,800 drunks at 2 in the morning?" Anderson said.
At some point the meeting inside the City Council chambers erupted into discussions between two groups, one claiming the police were overzealous in arresting people and the other wanting more controls on Pier Avenue. Frank Hallstein, the owner of Hermosa Lock and Safe, said that the downtown bars should hire their own private security firm.
Resident Barbara Ellman agreed, proposing bar owners should collect a fee from customers that would go toward policing the area.
Another man suggested that the city start vigorously enforcing public drinking laws. "What I'm seeing down on The Strand ... is lots of crowds (of people) with beer bottles and cans carrying them openly," Tim Personius said.
Resident Al Benson, a frequent critic of the downtown's influence on area neighborhoods, said he wondered if the cost of controlling the popular night spot was worth it for the city.
The Daily Breeze – August 5, 2004
A big thanks to Hermosa officers
After reading the accounts of the recent carjacking in downtown Hermosa Beach, I'd like to publicly thank officer Michael Frilot and officer Jonathan Sibbald.
Sure, they were "just doing their job," but the number of people who are willing to pursue and engage armed criminals is very small.
And while Frilot and Sibbald aren't the only excellent officers in our little department, they certainly performed superbly during this incident. Thanks, guys.
GENE H. DREHER
The Beach Reporter – August 5, 2004
Hermosa Beach News
Police nab four men in alleged carjacking (8/5)
By Whitney Youngs
After ending in a car-to-car pursuit, Hermosa Beach Police last Thursday morning arrested four men in connection with the carjacking of an SUV belonging to a disc jockey who works at a bar located on the pier plaza. The four young men - Los Angeles resident Danuyel Bryant, 23; Gardena residents Marcus Ramsey, 23, and Tyrone Ramsey, 24; and William Jones, 22, of Pacoima - were arrested and charged with carjacking, grand theft auto and felony evading of police in the early morning (about 2 or 3 a.m.) of July 29.
According to Press Information Officer Sgt. Paul Wolcott, the four suspects drove a stolen Mercedes-Benz to Hermosa Beach and parked it in a public lot in the downtown area just west of the Bijou building. One of the suspects, Marcus Ramsey, then got out of the car with a handgun. Ramsey approached the DJ, who was loading his equipment into his SUV after finishing work at Dragon, a nightclub on the south side of the plaza. Ramsey threatened to kill the victim and demanded the keys to the SUV. The victim, fearing for this life, handed them over.
Wolcott would not comment as to why the men carjacked the DJ since it is part of the investigation. "Usually the motivation is some kind of gain - either monetary or property," he said.
Officer Michael Frilot, who was patrolling the area during this time, observed the men flee the scene in both the Mercedes-Benz (occupied by Jones, Tyrone Ramsey and Bryant) and the SUV (driven by Ramsey), and began to pursue the Mercedes. Frilot broadcast the chase over the radio while chasing the car that eventually led the officer onto The Strand, which is a long stretch of concrete along the beach used for pedestrians, bikers and in-line skaters. "(In response to driving on The Strand) Obviously, they don't care about people's lives anyway when they are out there robbing them in the middle of the night," said Wolcott.
Frilot continued to chase the Mercedes south on The Strand toward Pier Avenue and the suspects then drove the car onto the beach just past the municipal pier when at this point Officer Jonathan Sibbald arrived on the scene as backup. The sand slowed the Mercedes down, and Bryant jumped out of the car and ran into the ocean with Frilot in pursuit on foot. Sibbald held the two other men in the Mercedes at bay. Frilot noticed Bryant throw something into the ocean during the pursuit, which ended once Frilot caught him.
With the details about the crime and pursuit broadcast over the radio, a Manhattan Beach Police sergeant spotted the stolen SUV and a second pursuit ensued once Ramsey failed to yield to the officer. The chase continued east onto Century Boulevard and ended on the street near Denker Avenue where Ramsey was finally arrested. Police found a handgun on the car's passenger seat. Police transported the victim to the locale where the pursuit ended, and he positively identified Ramsey as the man who threatened his life and stole his car.
Los Angeles County Lifeguards conducted a search of the water where Bryant threw the object into the ocean, but have yet to locate anything. "Our speculation is that it may have been a gun," added Wolcott.
All four men were in police custody until their Aug. 2 arraignment at the Torrance Courthouse. According to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department records, Bryant is being held on $20,000 bail, Jones at $75,000 and Tyrone Ramsey at $20,000, all of whom are at the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles. Marcus Ramsey's bail was set at $100,000 and he is currently at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles.
Police later discovered that the Mercedes-Benz was carjacked in Beverly Hills July 18 and the Beverly Hills Police are interviewing the suspects in connection to this crime.
The Daily Breeze – July 30, 2004
Suspected carjackers arrested after police chase vehicle onto beach in Hermosa
By Larry Altman Daily Breeze
Suspected carjackers raced through Hermosa Beach early Thursday, driving onto The Strand and the sand, where their stolen Mercedes-Benz became stuck. Police arrested three suspects, including one who ran toward the ocean in a misguided escape plan, while officers in Manhattan Beach captured a suspected accomplice speeding away in a sport utility vehicle taken at gunpoint in Hermosa Beach, Sgt. Paul Wolcott said.
The arrests apparently solved a July 16 carjacking in Beverly Hills, and the SUV robbery around 2 a.m. in a public parking lot near Pier Plaza, Hermosa Beach police said. The suspected robbers apparently were waiting in the parking lot in the stolen Mercedes-Benz when a disc jockey finished a job at a Pier Plaza nightclub and was loading his equipment into his Chevrolet Tahoe, Wolcott said.
One suspect, identified later as Marcus Ramsey, 23, of Gardena pulled a gun, approached the DJ and threatened to kill him. Ramsey demanded his keys to the sport utility vehicle, police said. At about that moment, Hermosa Beach police officer Michael Frilot drove by. As he approached, the Mercedes-Benz and the carjacked SUV sped away. Three men were in the Mercedes and one in the Tahoe. Frilot, alerted to the crime, chased the Mercedes, which made its way to 14th Street and onto The Strand -- Hermosa's beachfront pedestrian walkway. The Mercedes-Benz raced south toward Pier Avenue.
Just after the pier, the car turned onto the beach. "The Mercedes was immediately bogged down in the loose sand of the beach," Wolcott said. One passenger, Danuyel Ezikiel Bryant, 23, of Los Angeles jumped out of the car and fled on foot toward the ocean. Frilot chased him and arrested him. Bryant, however, threw what was believed to be a gun into the water.
Hermosa Beach officer Jonathan Sibbald held the other two suspects in the Mercedes. Police identified them as William Leander Jones, 22, of Pacoima and Tyrone Maurice Ramsey, 24, of Gardena. Manhattan Beach police, meanwhile, spotted the stolen Chevrolet Tahoe and gave chase. The pursuit went east along Century Boulevard until officers bumped the car from behind, spun it around and surrounded it.
Marcus Ramsey, Tyrone's younger brother, was taken into custody. A handgun was found on the passenger seat. "The (disc jockey) was transported to the termination of the pursuit, where he identified Marcus Ramsey as the suspect who had threatened his life and carjacked his SUV," Wolcott said.
Beverly Hills police Lt. Mitch McCann said the Mercedes-Benz E320 was taken July 16 from a woman at gunpoint. Some men surrounded her in an alley behind her home, robbed her of money and jewelry and drove away in her car. The four men were held at the Hermosa Beach jail on suspicion of carjacking, auto theft and evading police. They are scheduled for arraignment Monday. Lifeguard divers searched the water for the gun, but could not locate it.
The Easy Reader – June 10, 2004
The Hermosa Beach City Council took steps Monday
toward doubling the fee bars and restaurants pay for patio space on city land
while backing off from imposing a sewer use fee.
The council did not conclude discussions but appeared likely to increase encroachment fees from $1 to $2 per square foot and possibly $4 per square foot for establishments that stay open past midnight. Most heavily hit by such a move would be Hennessey’s Tavern with more than 12,000 square feet of patio space on Pier Plaza.
The effort to raise fees on nearly two dozen establishments would pump more than $100,000 -– if fees are doubled -– into the city’s $18.8 million General Fund.
Although city officials have refused to put an estimate on the cost of maintaining the downtown, a close look at the city’s financing puts the cost at about $2.6 million. The figure considers that 30 percent of police, fire and road repairs are spent on the downtown scene, which raises an estimated 15 percent of the city’s property, sales, hotel and utility users’ tax.
The city managed to balance its 2004-05 fiscal year budget – set to be approved later this month -– despite an estimated 18 percent reduction in sales tax revenue due to the likely move of the BMW dealership in September. City Manager Stephen Burrell said the car dealer might decide to keep a scaled down sales lot in its place. City officials discussed plans for a new hotel, which would make up some of the tax loss.
The city also faced a downturn in the amount of money expected from the state, by more than $360,000, as well as a $1 million shortfall in the state’s retirement plan to city employees.
Councilmen and city staff both expressed concern that not enough money was left in the capital improvement fund to pay for much needed street improvements and sewer renovations.
Also left out of the equation are two vacant police officer positions and nine other jobs in various departments.
The council was presented with different ways to find more funding including a sewer use fee, which the group turned down in part because of a recent uproar in Redondo over the same issue and because some councilmen felt the public would assume the Utility Users Tax would cover such costs.
Currently, $700,000 of the $2.4 million to be generated by the UUT is allocated for sewer improvements. The rest goes to the General Fund.
While backing off of the proposed sewer use fee, council members expressed consensus in implementing an ordinance that would require grease receptors under restaurant sinks. The public works department has increasingly been called on to address grease buildup in the city’s sewers, officials said.
In a meeting two weeks ago, the council agreed to raise parks and recreation fees across the board, a decision that put some parents back when they found the price of some of this year’s summer camps nearly doubled.
As for capital improvement projects, city officials offered a list of streets scheduled for resurfacing including Second Street, Pier Avenue, 11th Place and 20th Street, adding that many other streets also need work.
More than half of the $2.1 million Capital Improvement Fund – some $1.2 million -- is earmarked for upcoming pier renovations.
Additional public works expenditures are set to include $160,000 to upgrade sewer line pump stations, $150,000 to the Hermosa Playhouse, $80,000 to remodel the upstairs of the fire station, $80,000 to renovate the public works yard, and other allocations for various park upgrades. All total nearly $6 million.
Finance Director Vicki Copeland said the city’s top four revenue sources represent 65 percent of the General Fund -– $10.9 million -– nearly half of which comes from property taxes. Sales, Utility Users and hotel taxes account for the remaining $5.7 million.
Parking meters and fines are expected to bring in $1.2 million after expenses. The city may look to increase that figure by installing “smart” parking meters, which give a standard five minutes free and reset any time when a car vacates a spot. The move is estimated to bring in an added $1 million. One of the first sites to implement the meters will likely be in lot A south of Pier Plaza. ER
The Easy Reader – June 3, 2004
been much gnashing of teeth recently as some residents of Hermosa Beach
reconsider the decisions regarding how Pier Plaza was developed. How is it, they
ask, that this beautiful plaza has become the epicenter of nightly drunkenness?
Why has it become the magnet for every alcohol-eligible (and some not) young
person within driving distance?
It is that way because the same people who are now complaining, at least those living in Hermosa at the time, didn’t raise their voices while the decisions were being made. After all, these decisions were made in public. But the few who did protest looked over their shoulders and found no one behind them. The City Council and commissions saw this as supporting their ability to do as they saw fit.
They can’t really be faulted for doing so. Hermosa Beach is in a particularly difficult Proposition 13 bind. The large percentage of the population consists of renters. This means that while the residents of the city may change, the ownership of the buildings doesn’t. The city is stuck in a property tax time warp as it cannot take advantage of much of the growth in property values as other nearby cities do.
The city also is too small to have the kind of retail base that provides sales tax revenues to its coffers, such as Redondo and Manhattan have with their malls and Torrance has with its car dealerships. Hence, the interest in the revitalization of lower Pier Avenue from the dismal, dark home for bikers it was to the bright, open pedestrian mall it now is.
The discussions of what to put on Pier Avenue went on for a long time. The history that Manhattan Beach had with its short, sad foray into the youth booze scene might have been instructive, but it was overwhelmed by the desire to take advantage of a market that none of the other South Bay cities seemed to cater to. The few voices raised in protest did so with little community support or interest.
On top of this lack of interest on the part of the public was the election and reelection to the City Council of people who were clearly in favor of what has occurred on Pier Avenue. In these elections, turnout is dismally low, indicating indifference on the part of the populace. To a viewer from the outside, this provides justification, not condemnation, for what occurs every night as the police pick up the detritus of an evening at the various watering holes.
If the people wish it, they can make it so. They could attend meetings and make their concerns known. City Councils respond to people who show up. They tend to be more impassive about those who don’t. The people can change the City Council so that it has a majority on it that would not, for example, approve a new bar as one closes, or would be more proactive in approaching higher-end retail stores that might serve its upscale residents.
But my guess is that things will remain status quo. Maybe it is because most Hermosans aren’t really all that put out by the goings on at Pier Avenue. Most don’t live anywhere near it, anyway and aren’t affected all that much by it on a daily basis. And, most people aren’t all that interested in getting involved. Their own lives are too busy and becoming active is inconvenient.
They’ll leave all that “cleaning up” to the police. After all, they’re getting well practiced at it. ER
The Daily Breeze – May 30, 2004
HB PIER PLAZA at the CROSSROADS
Story by Dennis Johnson, DAILY BREEZE
IT'S 1 A.M. ON PIER AVENUE PLAZA and a man walks up to the police officers watching over the unusually sparse crowds to tell them that someone is laid out cold on the sidewalk in front of Citibank.
For a Saturday night on the downtown Hermosa Beach patrol this isn't a rarity.
The man on the ground appears to be very intoxicated. He's also very large, about 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, mostly muscle. Three officers strain to help him into the back seat of a patrol car. He's barely coherent, but can somewhat support himself as two officers push him from one side, while another pulls from the other. The process takes about three minutes.
"And he's not even that bad," Sgt. Raul Saldana remarks. "OK. There you go. Good night, sweet prince," says officer Chris Alkadis before closing the door and hopping in the front seat to ferry the man to the police station for detox.
The tall, stumbling man is not the entire story of the city's Pier Avenue Plaza -- he's just one more character in its 7-year-old narrative. But he is emblematic of a single city block on a long-term bender.
Fun and buzzing alive much of the time, alcohol stung and hung-over at others.
There is no denying the popularity of the beach-side promenade -- sales tax figures and crowds in the thousands don't lie -- but it is prosperity with a twist, a caveat recognized by everybody from City Council members to residents to the chief of police.
Already a social and political focal point of the town, the plaza has come under scrutiny by a Police Department that has long accepted that policing drunks and stopping fights is part of its nightly duties, so much so that two to six officers are assigned to the plaza six nights a week. Four officers walk the beat full time.
Fighting is so common, the plaza's nickname is "Thunderdome," after the Mad Max movie.
"I think there are a lot of good things downtown that a lot of people do like, but you have this popular element that takes place at night; that's where a lot of the bad (problems) come from," Police Chief Michael Lavin said. "We don't want to keep saying the sky is falling, but we've had enough incidents happen down here where we can raise the issue."
In response to the increased violence, Lavin issued a report earlier this year outlining the problems in which he also says there is ample reason to connect a large number of the incidents to a couple of bars -- Sangria and Aloha Sharkeez. "I believe it is reasonable to say that the majority of these calls are directly or indirectly connected to the address indicated," Lavin wrote in the Feb. 26 report. "I have spoken with officers that have worked the downtown foot patrols for many years. It was certainly no surprise to them that Sangria and Sharkeez have had and continue to have the most disturbances connected to their businesses."
The 26-year veteran recounted a handful of brawls in the downtown area, including a New Year's Day fight in which police Sgt. Steve Endom had his leg broken. In early January, a woman was punched in the face twice after arguing with a man about the Oakland Raiders in a downtown bar. And in an assault May 6, a man smashed a bottle over another man's head, spraying bystanders with glass and alcohol.
Since the report was released, Lavin and several city officials have stopped tying the calls to any specific business, instead opting to meet with all Pier Avenue bar owners -- including the two in question -- to come up with a generalized approach for tackling the problems of excessive drunkenness and increased violence.
However, police officials said the ideal solution has yet to be found.
On one hand, budget constraints prevent Lavin from hiring the number of officers he said are needed to adequately handle the problems. On the other hand, it's also highly unlikely that all bar owners would agree on a strict, consistent set of rules to govern good behavior downtown.
Lavin said he is pleased that the city and the department have started working with business owners in confronting the problems of over-serving alcohol, overcrowding and underage drinking. At a meeting May 18, bar owners agreed to address the three issues. More such meetings are planned.
It's things such as crowding and over-serving that can be directly tied to the increased level of violence, said Lt. Lance Jaakola, who is in charge of the department's operations. "I firmly believe that if the tavern owners worked on taking care of these three problems, we wouldn't need more officers," Jaakola said.
With Memorial Day weekend the unofficial kickoff for summer, officers are bracing for a lively few months, the highlight of which is the Fourth of July, when several thousand people flock to the town.
As someone who had a hand in approving many of the downtown businesses, Planning Commissioner Sam Perrotti said that the current reality is a far cry from the place where he envisioned people coming down for dinner and drinks.
"I had a certain vision of what the Pier Plaza would look like," Perrotti said. "This isn't the vision I had."
'A life of its own'
While downtown has always had a handful of bars -- some with infamous histories -- it was the $14 million makeover in 1997 that closed lower Pier Avenue to traffic and turned it into a thriving nightspot that draws people from as far away as Pomona and San Diego, Lavin said.
During the daytime things are calm, but from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. officers receive dozens of calls, the majority of them over the weekend.
For example, from 7 p.m. Thursday, May 20, to 7 a.m. Monday, May 24, officers responded to 50 calls in the one-block area of Pier Plaza. These calls included everything from fights and disturbances to drunk in public and basic calls for service. "It's got a life of its own. It is so popular you have people coming from all over to frequent that. I don't know how we can control that," Lavin said. "Our conclusion is that if you have a big incident down there, it will put a damper on business."
The main issue is the balance between promoting the area as a destination and addressing the problems associated with its popularity -- namely thousands of people drinking alcohol in a small area six nights a week. The Police Department, however, spends up to $350,000 per year -- about 35 percent of its total overtime budget -- for officers to patrol the downtown area.
In addition, the city annually uses about $130,000 for cleaning crews to pick up trash downtown each morning and steam clean the area a few times a year. In return, the area has generated about a quarter of the city's sales tax revenue for the first half of this year -- $256,234.
But it's not just money that the plaza brings in for the city. There's also the added cachet of having a highly popular nightspot that attracts tourists, hotel tax and notoriety. Since the downtown's completion, a variety of television shows and magazines have featured the city, ranking it one of the best beach burgs in California.
For City Councilman Michael Keegan, Pier Avenue reminds him of Division Street in Chicago, another hub of nightlife. He said he enjoys living in a town where he can go out at 10:30 p.m., knowing there will be a vibrant crowd around.
While he said he is happy for the prosperity of the district, Keegan admits he would like to see more family-oriented and food-centered businesses, rather than establishments that rely so heavily on alcohol sales. It's roughly an even split between bars and restaurants, and other businesses on the single city block.
"People like to hang out down there, drink coffee in the coffee shop, walk down to the end of the pier, walk back, go have something to eat," Keegan said. "There's something to do. You try doing that in Torrance."
It's a diversity of venues, he believes, that is behind the area's thriving success. A range of businesses might also sustain its popularity and help control future problems. Keegan acknowledged that there are concerns associated with the success of the plaza, saying that anytime a large public area becomes popular there are going to be negative repercussions.
The councilman questioned whether it could be people who get drunk elsewhere and come down to stir up trouble, or if the fighting is the result of jealous boyfriends protecting their ladies from unwanted advances of other men.
"I think it's overblown until it's checked out," he said. "I think the police just want to bring our attention to it."
Keegan is confident that tavern owners, and city and police officials can work to curb the downtown violence. "I think that with swift action, with good ideas, we can address the problems," he said. "I view it as we're running sort of a venue. ... We have to manage it no different than any other asset.
"If we have to take action, I think the bar owners will work in concert with us."
On a recent Friday, the 8 p.m. dinner crowd is still seated in long lines at the outdoor tables on Sangria's patio. A Latin band -- the Bouzoukis -- plays music that serves as the background track for the entire plaza.
As the evening progresses, the crowds start to change, dinner and happy hour people are replaced by those out for a long night.
Inside Aloha Sharkeez, the scene stays the same -- it's still wall-to-wall people, just like it is most nights of the week. Those at a table or with a wall to hold them up are the lucky ones. Everyone else squeezes past each other as they wind through the crowded restaurant. The bar staff does a yeoman's job of keeping aisles clear and the patrons well lubricated.
By 10:45 p.m. Sangria is a different animal. Gone are the long tables and diners who were using them. Replacing them are crowds baring skin and wearing trucker hats. The band's set is over and thumping house music has filled the room.
Across the way, above Loreto Plaza -- a small square off the main street -- the Fat Face Fenner's Fishack balcony offers a bird's-eye view of the scene below. The lines outside Sangria, Aloha Sharkeez and Patrick Molloy's stretch away from the Pier Avenue businesses and out toward Hermosa Avenue. Inside the Fishack, owner Gary Vincent is setting up a DJ booth while his business slowly fills with a crowd notably more sedate than those across the promenade.
Vincent said he's trying to reach an older clientele for his 5-year-old restaurant and bar, adding that he believes the future of Pier Avenue involves more upscale businesses and their attendant customers.
"What's happening is the businesses are changing," Vincent said. "The evolution of Manhattan Beach is nothing more than a predecessor of what is happening in Hermosa Beach. In Manhattan Beach, you had every place that was a bar turn into a bistro." It's this change in markets -- in clientele -- that the longtime barman with the Boston accent hopes to tap.
Back on the Fishack's patio, Redondo Beach residents and regulars James Vestal and Gordon Kordyak are talking about their own evolution in coming to a place that is known as a hot spot all over Southern California.
Vestal, 24, who works in Orange County at a law office, said when people mention going to "L.A." they're usually talking about Hermosa Beach. "It's kind of rare for you to find it dead on the weekend," said Vestal, adding that he can't understand why people would want to wait in line for a bar. "My feeling is it's kind of a meat market."
While they used to do the very same thing in their hunt for good times and attractive women, the two said they were over the whole scene. "After a while, we just figured it out," Kordyak, 25, said. "Once you become a local, you just kind of figure it out. You get over the hype."
The allure of alcohol
While it wasn't the main thrust of the downtown's 1997 renewal -- that would be the European piazza design -- alcohol is undeniably a factor in both the downtown's popularity and its growing collection of restaurants.
In fact, Sharkeez owner Ron Newman said it's usually the early success of bars and restaurants that pave the way for retail shops and fancy boutiques to move into an area -- something that could be part of Hermosa Beach's future. Newman said the main reason for the area's success is its hardworking business owners, many of them residents of Hermosa Beach or other local towns. They've established a scene that is a way of life for many people, that starts with breakfast and ends with drinks at last call.
Business owners also come together to confront problems when they occur, he said. They work with the Police Department and are constantly upgrading their businesses to attract new customers, he said. This is why Newman said he was shocked to discover that the Police Department had singled out Sharkeez and Sangria for review of their conditional use permits (CUP), which set guidelines for how a business can operate.
A subsequent investigation by the city's code enforcement officer found that neither of the bars had violated their permits.
Newman said he believes his business is under scrutiny because it is one of the most popular on the plaza and patrol officers park themselves out front at night. "We operate within our CUP and we never thought anything of it," Newman said. "Most of the (business owners) are not like people who come into a town, rape it and take off. They're all concerned about doing the right thing."
Newman said it's a fine balance between doing business and keeping people happy, especially when some of those people want to impose a minority opinion on what he said is a largely silent majority. "My feeling is, I wonder what Hermosa would be like ... if everybody closed at 10 o'clock," he said. "You wonder what would happen to people in the hotels who come out for some nightlife.
"Before the promenade days, you had Pier 52 and all these things that never changed. That's what some people don't know. They forget what it was like down here -- with the gangs and everything."
Prior to the 7-year-old renovation, the street was known for its grungy bars, T-shirt shops, boarded-up store fronts and groups of teenagers known affectionately as "Pier Rats." Even longtime police officers say they don't necessarily miss the rough-and-tumble bunch who would frequent the area.
For some of those shops on Pier Avenue not involved in the alcoholic side of things, the mix of nightlife and daytime activities has been a boon to business. Sandy Orhbach owner of High-Five Boutique, a clothing store beneath the Fishack, said the increase in nighttime trade makes for a steady flow of customers and means she can stay open later. The businesses along the street have been very considerate of her, she said.
Orhback said she and her family go out to dinner at least once a week, usually at any of the Pier Avenue restaurants' outdoor patios where she can watch her children play on the promenade. "It's laid back and yet still fun ... it's a community, that's what I like about it," Orhbach said.
"That's the nice thing about the plaza, too. On certain nights you can always find someone you know."
Taming the beautiful beast
Back on that Saturday night of the large, passed-out man outside Citibank, Sgt. Saldana said before heading out on patrol that the downtown area has changed drastically in the 17 years he's been with the city.
They never used to arrest people in the numbers they do now for alcohol-related offenses, he said, adding that they bring in about eight people a night, six nights a week. Saldana estimated that about 80 percent of the problems the department deals with are connected to booze, something he attributes to the younger age of those drinking and the sheer number of people who descend on the town each week.
"Is it a good thing it's become a mecca for entertainment? I'd say yes," he said. "Has it become an attractive nuisance? Yes. In some ways, I think it's better. (But) in some ways I like the old downtown better."
As the supervisor for the department's patrols, Saldana said he and his officers know they are dealing with a small percentage of troublemakers out of a high volume of people.
They try to catch those who may harm themselves or others -- who usually call attention to their drunken state by fighting, urinating on the Canary Island palms on the plaza, or passing out in the street. "I'm probably still one of the last realists. I still don't think that everybody is bad. I've been doing this for a long time," Saldana said. "It's definitely not Sodom and Gomorrah down here.
"We have alcohol, and alcohol tends to make hard-working people do things they normally wouldn't do."
As the city slides into summer, a time sure to bring crowds in the thousands, Chief Lavin and Lt. Jaakola said the department will work as it always does to keep the area safe, but there is only so much it can do.
"I think there's a real dilemma about what do to about downtown," Lavin said.
"Either we simply acknowledge that this is the way it is and we staff for it ... and keep a lid on it and regulate it real well or we just eliminate it."
The Easy Reader – May 20, 2004
City officials and police urged Hermosa bar owners to work harder at curbing
noise, under-age drinking and over-occupancy, while giving kudos for their
improving efforts at an annual public meeting Tuesday at City Hall. The
gathering served as a forum for bar owners to exchange feedback with police,
city officials, and the public.
Officers said although they’ve received good interaction with bar owners and doormen, more could be done.
Police complained that patron promotions beyond the South Bay draw from the greater Los Angeles area people who commit the majority of problems. None of the bar owners acknowledged such advertising.
The city has attracted more people every year since construction of the Pier Plaza in 1997, coinciding with an increase in crime.
In 2003, police saw 140 assaults, compared to 77 in 1998. There were 1,315 arrests in 2003 compared with 608 in 1998, and 285 DUI arrests compared to 150 in 1998. In February, police chief Michael Lavin cited “an ever-increasing level of violence in the downtown.”
Police made clear bar owners are only responsible for what’s controllable within their establishments and said they came to the meeting to help and not to pick on them. “One of our objectives is to change the clientele,” Lavin said. He has in the past suggested that bars play less rap, hip-hop and hard rock music.
Too loud anyway
Lavin said the city noise ordinance calls for subjective judgments by officers to determine if noise is too loud. The city’s previous decibel-measuring system was scrapped as too difficult to enforce. The current wording describes an excessive noise as anything clearly audible beyond the property line where it originates.
City Manager Stephen Burrell said noise could be limited best by shutting windows and doors.
Conn Flatley, owner of Fat Face Fenner’s Fishack, said since putting up movie blankets on the outside of his windows to limit the sound during live bands, the bar hasn’t received a single complaint from its “favorite neighbor.” According to 2001 records on police calls for service, less than 5 percent of calls regarding loud parties came from the downtown area.
Police stepped up their efforts in recent months to combat underage drinking. In the past two months, officers have cited about 60 people for possession of fake identification. Some offenders were consequently arrested when they lied to police.
“I don't think anyone wants to serve underage customers. They create more problems,” said Hennessey’s Tavern owner Paul Hennessey.
Also at the meeting, one officer asked bar owners if they had a problem with police checking the IDs of people waiting in line. The matter faces a legal clarification by the city attorney. While no bar owner raised a hand in objection, Chamber of Commerce President Carla Merriman spoke up to oppose the idea, saying people would feel intimidated in line.
The Fire Department cited several establishments in recent months. Last week, Sharkeez was singled out during its Cinco de Mayo fiesta when an inspector noticed decorations had covered up exit signs. The Fire Department deemed the scene hazardous and all the customers were removed, and brought back in once the signs were uncovered.
At one point in the meeting, a bar owner said he previously heard an officer with a microphone threaten to pepper spray the crowd if they didn’t disperse. Police Capt. Tom Eckert insisted that no officer did such a thing, while the bar owner said he was certain he heard it with his own ears.
Residents weigh in
Several residents from Manhattan Avenue voiced their complaints that the neighborhood was turning into a pig’s sty with beer cans, bottles and trash strewn about along with urine and vomit. One resident remarked, “Listening to someone throw up outside your window for a half hour at 2 in the morning is disgusting.”
Some bar owners argued that drunken people could come from locations aother than their establishments. ER
The Easy Reader – May 13, 2004
It’s Saturday night in downtown Hermosa Beach as a police force collides with
liquid courage. “It's the same thing every weekend. Mostly everything down
here involves alcohol. We usually can't reason with drunks too well,” says
Officer Dave Bohacik as he surveys the scene at party central, the popular Pier
Two women and a man recoil as they watch their friend’s eyes roll back and his head droop limp toward his chest. His body slumps as police officers strap his wrists with handcuffs; the man refused to sign a drinking-in-public citation and then refused to be cuffed.
The tactic police commonly use cuts off blood flow to the brain, referred to in the academy as a corrugated restraint, more commonly known as a headlock.
On another night around closing time, police responding to a disturbance call confront three men in front of Roberts Liquor who fail to respond to repeated requests to stop walking and confront police. The men have their arms around each other’s shoulders. One says, “There’s no problem here; we’re cool.” Apparently not, as officers press them up against the Bank of America. One suspect punches an officer in the side and police react quickly, dropping the man to the ground. Officers deliver a few kicks before he’s subdued and pulled into a patrol car.
The crowd surrounding the scene grows chaotic, yelling accusations at police about abuse and unnecessary force. Officers are dramatically outnumbered, about 100 to six. The look in officers’ eyes suggests a rush of adrenaline as they work to keep the crowd at bay. The situation quickly turns ugly.
Two girls dressed to party scream at Officer Chris Alkadis who pushes them both away, one at a time, nearly taking the girls off their feet. One responds with a light shove against the officer’s shoulder. Alkadis twists her wrist behind her back and delivers her to another officer, who handcuffs the woman and puts her in a patrol car. “A lot of people think we come off strong. You have to look at it from our perspective. If we find the problem and remove it quickly, we can go on to the next problem. What's perceived as aggressive is just what force is necessary,” said Officer Landon Phillips. “All we try and do is be as safe as possible. This [Pier Plaza] is a controlled chaos. There are about 1,000 people to four officers. Our biggest fear is that the crowd will turn on us.”
The people arrested in these cases didn’t live in the South Bay. Like many of the tens of thousands of people a year, they were drawn to the tight strip of bars called the Pier Plaza. The older holes on Pacific Coast Highway get their share of neighborhood police calls too. Upper Pier Avenue and outlying bars on Hermosa Avenue also have seen their share of police attention.
Attorney Tom Beck is currently prosecuting three lawsuits against the Hermosa Beach police, one that is under appeal and two others yet to go to trial. Beck has been taking on police forces in court since 1978. “The beach cities like to use the drunk in public statute to arrest people. Police are no different down there than anywhere else. They play the same game: they overreact, they cover it up and they lie about it,” Beck said.
With the summer about to heat up, Hermosa approaches its most active season. Last year’s Fourth of July -– when the partying spills from the Plaza up and down the Strand -- topped years past in borderline anarchy. Beck has filed a lawsuit in an incident caught on videotape showing an officer shooting pepper spray in the face of a man who resisted getting pushed into a patrol car. Later that day, an altercation left one officer with a broken leg.
Baby faced enforcement
Officer Landon Phillips has been on the Hermosa Police force for almost three years though he’s still perceived by many suspects as a rookie. At age 25, Phillips doesn’t look a day over 18. He followed in the polished boots of his father, a career Hermosa cop. Instead of squeezing himself within one of the Pier Plaza bars like others his age, Phillips stands back by his patrol car with an ear tuned to his radio.
Two girls approach.
“Hey, look at him,” one says to her friend. “He’s a cute cop. Would you handcuff me? I just love a man in a uniform,” she says. Phillips smiles slightly and says, “No. My girlfriend wouldn’t like that.” He says he often gets that kind of attention along with a fair share of negative feedback, as any officer can attest. “How many people go to work and have someone walk up, get in their face and say I hate you?” Phillips said.
Anyone who’s been around long enough, especially on the Fourth of July has witnessed the strong arm of the law, sometimes perceived as short-fused justice. Some in trying to rile up a reporter say the situation is worse than LAPD’s Rampart Division. Articles in this newspaper recently featured three claims for damages against the Hermosa Police Department, none of which officers were allowed to respond to because the matters might end in litigation. If those cases are like most, however, they will never go to trial.
Police officers say they wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t get complaints. The department receives about 24 complaints a year against police personnel, about one every two weeks. This includes investigations initiated by the department, but most are by the public. Among those complaints, only two made it to trial since 1998, the year the Pier Plaza was opened. The department was exonerated in an excessive force lawsuit brought by Richard Burd. In the other, the city won a summary judgment that is under appeal.
Although the number of complaints has stayed about the same each year since 1998, the number of arrests in the city spiked in the last few years, going from about 600 per year from 1998 to 2000, to 846 in 2001; 1,012 in 2002; and 1,315 in 2003. Police arrested 583 people between November 2003 and March 2004, including 185 suspected of public drunkenness.
The Plaza has drawn its share of attention. Police Chief Mike Lavin, in a February memo to the city manager, cited “an ever-increasing level of violence in the downtown.” In the city’s only statistical analysis of downtown crime, police found in 2001 that the small area accounted for one quarter of the city’s disturbance calls and 29 percent of reported assaults.
“Drunk guys are usually not cooperative,” said Officer Don Jones. “They don't understand consequences and might be resistant. You have to repeat things a few times. Our job is to make sure no one gets hurt. If we can stop a fight before it gets bad that’s a good thing. As long as I walk home and know no one got hurt, I feel I've done my job.”
The Easy Reader – May 13, 2004
A recent weekend-night ride-along revealed the mundane and the hectic.
11:20 p.m. Police Sgt. Paul Wolcott drives up to the back door of the Underground Bar and Grill on Hermosa Avenue, where a doorman reported catching a guy with a fake ID. The picture does not look like the man. Alkadis and his partner Officer Kelly Sullivan arrive on the scene. The suspect’s real name and birth date reveal he's on felony probation. Alkadis says to his partner, “1015. Do it.” He repeats, “1015. Do it,” as he nonchalantly motions with his flashlight. Sullivan handcuffs the man and put him in the patrol car.
11:32 p.m. Back at the station, police search the man and place his belongings in a plastic bag as he is booked. He comes up to a metal gate in a tiny booth. Wolcott stands behind the counter like a judge or a priest in confessional. He's scrolling through the man's arrest warrant. It shows a life of trouble. "I don't have any parents sir. I've been raised by my grandparents,” the man says. "How long have you been on probation?" Wolcott asks. "Since I was 15." The man faces five years in prison for violating probation, Wolcott says.
Midnight: We hit the streets again, doing a lap around the Plaza, down the Strand and through the alleys. On 14th Street Wolcott runs the plates of a car with some men standing around it. The plates come up clean. Wolcott flashes the spotlight in the car. It takes a keen eye on the little things to catch crime. Officers are committed to maintaining a quality of life people should expect. “It's the little things that take the quality away,” Wolcott says.
12:14 a.m. Officers break up a party at the Quality Inn and Suites on Aviation Boulevard. A kid sits in the hallway. Two officers are already on scene when Wolcott arrives. One is standing over the suspect. "I give you credit. At least you got them out of here fast," the officer says. The other officer surveys the room. Wolcott follows. The room is smoky. A towel rack and a lamp are broken.
12:35 a.m. Three laps around the Plaza checking in with all the doormen. They each wave at Wolcott, who flashes his spotlight like a wink while we pass. Someone yells down the alley, "I'm drunk in public."
12:41 a.m. There's a call from the Masada house, a halfway house for young people, reporting someone stole a purse; suspect is a man in a black sweatshirt. We race around the neighborhood searching, but no luck.
12:53 a.m. Call to North End. A guy got hit in the face with a bottle. He comes out with blood on the bridge of his nose. He knows who hit him but he doesn't want to press charges.
1:04 a.m. I’m in the middle of telling a story about how some drunk person punched me in the face one Fourth of July when Wolcott spots a kid bent down behind a car. He stops abruptly and quickly flashes the spotlight on him. The kid says he was pulling his socks up. He has long socks, pulled up to his knees. He's missing some teeth. Wolcott looks closely. “When did you snort cocaine?” he says. "About an hour ago," the kid says, not hesitating. The kid's let go with a warning to stay out of trouble. “How did you know he did cocaine?” I ask later. “There was white powder on the rim of his nose,” Wolcott says.
1:25 a.m. We join the foot patrol on the Plaza. Officers are standing around casually. People coming out of Fat Face Fenners Fishack have caught officers’ attention, a potential fight. They go to break it up and tell both men to go their separate ways or they’ll get arrested.
1:35 a.m. Police stop a man holding a plastic cup with about an inch of gin and tonic. An officer approaches him and says, “Guess what I’ve got here?” holding a ticket book. The man is cited for drinking in public, and not all that happy about it.
1:45 a.m. The lights to the bars come up, signifying closing time. Officers know the moment is volatile as about a thousand people, mostly intoxicated, flood into the broad walk street.
1:50 a.m. Police get a disturbance call from Roberts’ Liquor and make the aforementioned arrest. For the next half hour, officers are fueled with adrenaline, trying to disperse the unruly crowd.
2:15 a.m. Wolcott heads back to the station. On the way he spots three men urinating behind a dumpster in an alley. He pulls in behind them and turns on his lights. The men scatter with glassy eyes.
2:30 a.m. Nearly all the officers are back at the station beginning to fill out paperwork. A friend of the man who was arrested on suspicion of police battery wants to post his bail until he finds out it’s set at $20,000, which will have to take a little longer than expected.
Pier Plaza has been a hot button political issue in Hermosa since its creation. Council candidates such as longtime office holder Sam Edgerton and newly elected councilman Peter Tucker campaigned in part on their friendliness with the Plaza establishments. Other forces about town hammered the candidates for such support.
Many argue the plaza brings rowdy outsiders who don’t respect the city. Others look at the financial gains and the rise in property values that come with a vibrant draw, and point out that the sparkling Plaza brought to life downtown buildings that had been boarded up.
There’s a paradox in this scene that while the town has prospered with revitalization, destructive shock waves ripple to nearby businesses in the form of vandalism and mischief. Every weekend police get at least one report of etched or broken storefront windows. Building managers report urine and occasionally human feces in the alleys. Vomit often litters the sidewalks.
Gary Kazanjian of Kazanjian Stained Glass on upper Pier Avenue said he’s had his windows broken three times in the last four years. He suggested a fund paid into by downtown bar owners to cover damages caused to other businesses by their patrons.
“I'm really happy to see their success. I think it's good for the town for having people coming in and it probably has ancillary advantages to other businesses too when people see our city. I just think they should take care of the impact that they have on our businesses too,” Kazanjian said, adding that he’s been in business since 1975 in the same location and didn’t have these problems until the redevelopment on pier plaza.
Bad old days
People who have been in Hermosa for a long time remember the old days in the 60s and the 70s when biker gangs frequented the cul de sac that is now the Pier Plaza. In the 80s and most of the 90s, two-thirds of the businesses on the dilapidated Pier Avenue were vacant. At the time, Hermosa was in dire need of a makeover.
“It's nothing like it used to be,” said Paul Hennessey, owner of Plaza mainstay Hennessey’s Tavern. “I used to fondly tell people we were located where the debris meets the sea. There were a lot of homeless people, drug addicts and violence on the pier. Because of that, no locals ventured down there.”
Hennessey said the police force now is the best he’s seen in the 27 years since he opened for business, when police wouldn’t dare confront motorcycle gangs.
“Believe me, whatever small complaints they have now, they wouldn't want the same things we had before,” he said.
The cost of refurbishment and millions of dollars in investment had a startling effect. Hennessey, like all others on the Plaza, pay as much for rent in a day as they did 25 years ago in a month. In turn, business has increased tenfold, he said.
“Just with sheer volume there's always people who will get out of line,” Hennessey said. ER
March 4, 2004
Honorable Chairman and Members of the Hermosa Beach Planning Commission
Regular Meeting of March 16, 2004
SUBJECTS: REVIEW OF INCIDENT REPORTS FOR PIER PLAZA AND DOWNTOWN AREA
That the Planning Commission receive and file this report.
On January 20, 2004, the Planning Commission conducted an annual review of downtown
conditional use permits and directed staff to provide police incidents reports for the
businesses. The incident reports were provided at the February 17, 2004 meeting and the
Commission reviewed the incident reports and a memorandum from the Police Chief. The
Planning Commission directed staff to set a hearing for review of two business conditional
use permits and further directed staff to have the code enforcement officer investigate whether
there were any code or CUP violations.
In response to the Commission direction, staff has reviewed the incident information again
and rather than proceeding at this time on a program to review two businesses, staff suggests a
broader approach to deal with area problems or concerns. This approach should focus on a
reduction of the number of police and fire response calls and ensure that the Downtown area
is not taking an undo amount of city resources. As you may be aware, from time to time staff
has met with representatives of all of the Pier Plaza and Downtown businesses to review
issues and concerns that have been expressed about the operation of businesses, general
activities and special events. These meetings have been an effective communication tool in
the past, and with active and continued participation by all concerned parties, staff is
confident that they can be an effective tool to deal with the present concerns. The task for
this group will be to come up an area wide approach and solutions that result in less need for
police response in the downtown. The group will include participation from area merchants
and staff and can be expanded to include others, should there be broader interest in
participating. Once the group has developed strategies and a consensus for dealing with area
concerns, staff will document the recommendations, which can be made available to the
Planning Commission and the City Council for review and possible response. Further actions
may include changes to conditional use permits or other parts of the Municipal Code.
This approach is being suggested as it is difficult to lay the blame at any one business in the
area. Hopefully, this will allow for a broad discussion of the problem and potential solutions.
Sol Blumenfeld, Director Mike Lavin,
Community Development Police Chief
Stephen R. Burrell,
Commissioners Allen, Hoffman, Perrotti, Pizer, Chairman Kersenboom
Also Present: Sol Blumenfeld, Community Development Director
Ken Robertson, Senior Planner
Denise Bothe, Recording Secretary
Chairman Kersenboom requested that Agenda Item No. 9, Review of Incident Reports for Pier Plaza and Downtown Area, be considered as the next order of business so that the police and fire personnel do not have to wait. No objection was noted.
(Item 9 was considered out of Agenda order.)
Staff Recommended Action: To receive and file.
Director Blumenfeld noted that at the January meeting, the Planning Commission conducted its annual review of Downtown conditional use permits for those that require periodic reviews; advised that the Police Department provided a tally of the incident reports; stated that Police Chief Lavin expressed concern with the operations of some of the Downtown businesses due to the increasing number of reported police calls at or nearby these businesses; and that as a result of that memorandum from Chief Lavin, the Planning Commission felt compelled to review the matter with the Police and Fire Departments. As a result of conversations among City staff, the City Manager, the Police and Fire Departments, it has been decided that it would not be appropriate to conduct a review of the two businesses in question because there isn't enough evidence at this point to indicate that these two businesses are in violation of their conditional use permits; stated that staff is proposing to meet with some of the Downtown businesses to review the concerns, such as discussing operational issues, security; and that based on those discussions, to develop a mutual strategy to ensure area wide code enforcement rather than site specific code enforcement. Director Blumenfeld stated that staff is proposing that these meetings take place over the next few months; that the City Manager and staff will make arrangements to meet with the Downtown business owners/operators. He added that what might come from these meetings is the desire to add common area security activity. He suggested the code enforcement team may include members from various departments, such as Community Development, Fire Department, and the Police Department.
Police Chief Lavin introduced Lieutenant Lance Jacola and Sergeant Kevin Gabrielle, who have spent a great deal of time working Downtown for a number of years and who are familiar with the problems. He advised that the Police Department is experiencing a larger number of problems in the Downtown area and arresting an increasing number of individuals; stated that the Police Department has already begun to meet with some of the business owners/operators - such as Sangria and the Light House - to talk about some of the issues of concern; and that the business owners/operators have responded in a positive manner to these discussions.
Commissioner Hoffman noted the reason that this issue is being addressed is the Planning Commission received a letter from Police Chief Lavin asking that the Commission look at the conditional use permits of Sangria and the Light House; and questioned if Police Chief Lavin is comfortable with the new proposal to meet and confer with the business owners/operators and various City staff.
Police Chief Lavin noted for Commissioner Hoffman that he would like to meet with the businesses to address his concerns.
Commissioner Hoffman noted that at this point, this issue is out of the Planning Commission's hands and that the kind of policy the City is now proposing needs to be worked out with various City staff, Police and Fire Department personnel and the business owners/operators.
Vice-Chairman Perrotti questioned if the incident reports can better identify how or where an incident occurred.
Police Chief Lavin noted for Vice-Chairman Perrotti that the incidents are captured more accurately and that he had provided the Commission with an abbreviated report; and stated that the Department does have more complete reports relating to the incidents. He advised that the Police Department is starting to see a rowdier clientele frequenting the Downtown area, even gang members.
Commissioner Pizer questioned if the Police Department has taken into consideration the problems with liquor stores selling alcohol to people early in the morning.
Sergeant Kevin Gabrielle advised that there are three areas of concern with regard to the taverns themselves - over-crowding of an establishment, over-serving of alcohol, and serving under-aged people. He commented on the Foot Patrol members meeting with bar staff and security personnel to educate them on identifying false I.D.'s and to address other areas of concern; and stated that these businesses are encouraged to contact the Police Department if they need assistance in any area of concern. With regard to the liquor stores, he confirmed that the alcohol sales do pose some problems early in the morning throughout the City, noting that the level of intoxication goes up around the holidays. He advised that the Police Department is seeing an increase in more violence as far as serious incidents than has been experienced in the past; and stated that some of the officers have been injured. He stated that these issues are being discussed with the business owners/operators and that they are trying to work toward a solution; and stated that these meetings with the Foot Patrol will soon result in a report that will be presented to the City.
Vice-Chairman Perrotti commented on past plans to reduce the use of bottled liquor after a certain hour.
Responding to Vice-Chairman Perrotti's comment, Sergeant Gabrielle advised that approximately 3 to 4 years ago, he obtained the cooperation from 70 percent of the businesses to not serve bottles of alcohol after midnight, that they were serving alcohol in plastic cups; but advised that because this activity has fallen off, it is something that should be revisited during the discussions.
Fire Chief Russell Tingly provided a general overview of what the Fire Department does in response to the Pier Plaza and Downtown area; advised that there are basically two types of incidents that draw the Fire Department Downtown: one being occupant load issues and the other being paramedic response/support. With regard to occupant load issues, he noted that the Foot Patrol sometimes does contacts the Fire Department when there is a concern with a great number of people inside an establishment and that calls are also received from patrons who feel uncomfortable or unsafe inside an establishment. He commented on the considerable effort it takes to conduct the inspections of the establishments when there is a concern with over-crowding - highlighting the task of counting with clicker devices the number of patrons inside a business. He noted that the number of citations being written has increased from 1 to 2 per year up to a peak of 5 last year. He noted his support for staff to work with these businesses to come to a solution with the various concerns.
Fire Chief Tingly noted for Vice-Chairman Perrotti that the Fire Department has asked the businesses to use these counting clickers, but that the businesses are not required to count with this method. He stated that when there is an issue of over-crowding, both the Fire Department personnel and the doormen/security will compare patron counts; and stated that if the Department issues a citation, no less than 3 clicker counts would be compared.
Vice-Chairman Perrotti requested a status report on the code enforcement activity at the Pitcher House.
Director Blumenfeld noted for Vice-Chairman Perrotti that a Code Enforcement Officer visited this business establishment on Friday, February 17, 2004, from 10:00 P.M. to 1:00 A.M. advised that the Code Enforcement Officer found at the Pitcher House that there was a live band playing rock 'n roll; that the doors and windows were closed, as is required; that there was a security guard at the front door, which is also a requirement; that there was additional security personnel inside, which isn't a requirement; and stated that the Code Enforcement Officer did not notice any rowdy behavior or observe any noise outside the business establishment. Director Blumenfeld noted that the Code Enforcement Officer indicated that when the band was playing, if one was standing immediately adjacent to the north wall of the business to hear the music, it was audible, but not loud; that the music was also audible across the street at the parking lot immediately across from the establishment, but that it was only audible if there was no traffic on Pacific Coast Highway. Director Blumenfeld advised that when he has been out to this business establishment himself at those same hours, he found that there was not a significant amount of noise; and that there was some noise but not enough to make a determination that it was a violation of the noise ordinance. He added that the Police Department has also been out there from time to time, and that they have also indicated they have not observed noise problems with this establishment.
Director Blumenfeld highlighted Gary Kazanjian's letter that was distributed to the Planning Commission wherein Mr. Kazanjian, who is a business owner on upper Pier Avenue, complains that his business and some of the businesses outside of Pier Plaza have suffered some vandalism that he thought might be connected to some of the Downtown bar patrons; and he noted that Mr. Kazanjian was advised of this proposed area wide solution to meet with the business owners to seek a solution to these problems. He noted Mr. Kazanjian's intent to make it clear that upper Pier Plaza businesses are also experiencing problems.
Ron Newman, representing Sharkeys, requested that all sides of this issue be addressed; stated that the crime statistics for the South Bay area indicate that crime has decreased 38 percent in this area since 1995; and stated that this issue should be worked out among the homeowners, the Police and Fire Departments and that no business should be singled out by the City.
Chairman Kersenboom suggested that Mr. Newman work with the new task force.
Karla Merryman, Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce, noted her opposition to considering Agenda items out of order.
Director Blumenfeld explained that the Commission had determined that the matter is out of the jurisdiction of the Planning Commission; and that staff, the Police Department and the Fire Department and business owners/operators were seeking a solution to the concerns.
Vice-Chairman Perrotti questioned if there is in place or plan to have an alternate security force in the area.
Ms. Merryman noted for Vice-Chairman Perrotti that the Chamber has addressed the possibility of instituting a volunteer policing group.
David Cohen, 631 6th Street, stated that he has lived in Hermosa Beach for 7 years; explained that he has talked to several of the club owners about sponsoring a Citizen Club Owner Interaction Committee; and advised that it would be necessary to formulate detailed plans on the creation of this interim entity that would monitor the Plaza area, provide a security bubble on holidays, weekends. He explained that these people would act as monitors and would take on a decreased enforcement role but would be supervised by the Police Department. He advised that so far, the club owners have responded in a positive manner; and noted that legal issues still need to be worked out. He noted that the Committee would need to develop a plan, budget, guidelines, review the legal issues, address potential liabilities, identify the scope of duties and responsibilities, review insurance issues, etc.; and stated that he intends on studying similar and successful programs in other jurisdictions.
Director Blumenfeld stated that staff will go forward with these meetings involving the various groups; and that a report of the discussions and solutions will ultimately be presented to the Planning Commission and City Council.
Vice-Chairman Perrotti thanked the Police and Fire personnel for attending this evening's meeting and for providing the information; stated that he was involved with a lot of decisions when the Plaza area was first created with a certain vision in mind, but that the Plaza as it currently exists does not conform to that vision, which is unacceptable.
Michael Morretti, 845 Second Street, stated that since he last attended the Planning Commission meeting to address the noise coming from the Pitcher House, he has recorded 35 hours of audio and video taken from his house of the Pitcher House activities; and he urged the City to take action on the nuisance his family is experiencing.
Director Blumenfeld stated that the Code Enforcement Officer could once again go out to this site to monitor the situation; and that he will also visit the site once again if the Planning Commission so desires another check of the facility. He noted that staff has not yet been able to corroborate the noise complaint by the Morretti's.
Mr. Morretti stated that it has only been the last 2 weekends that a security guard has been on site.
MOTION by Commissioner Hoffman, seconded by Vice-Chairman Perrotti, to RECEIVE AND FILE C-36 -- Review of incident reports for Pier Plaza and downtown area.
The Easy Reader - February 14, 2002
by Robb Fulcher
Crime rates were continuing to decline or remain level compared to years past, with the exception of a significant rise in assaults tied largely to activity around the thriving Pier Plaza nightspots, Police Chief Mike Lavin said.
Analyzing his department’s year-end crime statistics, Lavin singled out the rise in assaults as significant. The Police Department recorded 141 reported assaults last year, a 45 percent increase from the year before, and 32 percent above the average annual number of assaults through the last seven years. “We looked at assaults citywide and about 40 percent occurred in the downtown area,” Lavin said.
The department defined downtown as the small area bounded by the Strand to the west, 15th Street to the north, Palm Drive to the east and 10th Street to the South. Nearly half the downtown assaults occurred on the Plaza itself, Lavin said. “It continues to be a very popular area. Tons of people come down here,” Lavin said. “We’re seeing more nightlife down there on Sunday nights and Thursday nights. Talking to Redondo and Manhattan, we’ve stolen all their nightlife. They don’t have anything going on there.”
Still, Lavin said, the assault rate is not especially high considering the numbers of people who congregate at the five-year-old Plaza. Crime is also well reported in that area because of the stiff police presence on busy Plaza nights, he said. “We didn’t need those statistics to tell us that most of the assaults occur downtown, and where do we put most of our resources? Downtown,” he said.
Police have urged downtown establishments to serve beverages in plastic rather than glass at night, because of injuries caused by people falling on glassware during fights, Lavin said. “For years we’ve encouraged them not to serve in glass after 9 or 10 p.m. Some do and some don’t, we can’t make them do that,” he said. “We’ve had incidents of fights where people fell and cut themselves pretty badly. We’ve had batteries turn into assault with a deadly weapon. We’ve had misdemeanors become felonies.
Assaults also include domestic violence and child abuse as well as strangers or acquaintances attacking each other, Lavin said. Burglary decreased sharply, to 104 last year, compared to 145 in 2000, and a seven-year average of 168.
Last year saw an increase in rape to nine incidents. The year before the number was six, the same as the seven-year average. “A lot of them are date rape situations and either they are so intoxicated on drugs or alcohol that they can’t take care of themselves, or they’ve been given something to make them extremely intoxicated, and they are taken advantage of that way,” Lavin said. “Most of them know the person they are with.”
Lavin pointed to a nationwide problem of women being attacked after they become intoxicated on drugs or alcohol, on their own or through a surreptitiously given drug.
In Hermosa, a Police
Department report in August 2001 found that two thirds of the nine reported
rapes over a one-year period occurred in the small downtown area. “It’s
unfortunate that women who live that lifestyle down there get in that situation,
and there are a lot of wolves down there ready to take advantage of them,” Lavin
said. “It’s pretty sick.”
No reported murders were listed in 2001. In December a slain body was discovered at a residential construction site, but police believe the murder occurred outside the city lines.
Hermosa Beach Police Department
Office of the Chief of Police
Tuesday, April 16, 2002
To: The Honorable Mayor and Members of The Hermosa Beach City Council
For: The April 23, 2002 Regular meeting of The Hermosa Beach City Council
Statistical Report of Crimes and Police Activity for 2001
Staff recommends that the City Council:
Background and Analysis:
With an increase in the number of reported assaults for the calendar year of 2001, an analysis has been done in regards to the types of assaults that occurred. During 2001, the police department reported 141 assaults on its year end statistical report. However, after extracting the individual reports from the computer system, there were only 132 assaults that could be accounted for, during 2001. During the course of the year, reports are sometimes modified or reclassified for a variety of reasons that would have reduced this number.
It should also be noted that assaults are classified into two major categories, aggravated and simple. Aggravated assaults simply put, describe assaults where a deadly weapons was used, (gun, knife, bat, etc.), or where hands, fists, or feet are used resulting in an aggravated injury. Simple assaults are classified as a battery that has taken place yet there are not significant injuries or no injuries have occurred. It has been the policy of the Hermosa Beach Police Department to report all assaults. We have learned that it is the policy of some surrounding police agencies to only report aggravated assaults. Domestic violence assaults are also classified within these numbers along with assaults on police officers and these categories are broken apart from regular assaults. The breakdown of assaults is as follows:
42 – Domestic Violence assaults
17 – Aggravated assaults
25 – Simple assaults
37 – Simple assaults (no injury to minor injury)
48 – Aggravated assaults
4 – Aggravated assaults on Police Officers
1 – Simple assault on a Police Officer
132 – Total Assaults
Domestic Violence accounts for 32% of all of the assaults for 2001. A total of 53 assaults (40% of the total) were reported in the downtown area. Of these 53 assaults, 4 were domestic violence assaults and 4 were assaults on our police officers. There were 17 simple assaults and 28 aggravated assaults.
Calls for service for the downtown area were also examined. In the computer, the downtown area is between 10th Street to 16th Street and from The Strand to Palm Dr. including a small section of Manhattan Avenue from Pier Avenue to 14th Street.
Calls for service includes those called in by citizens as well as self-initiated by police officers. These totals do not reflect all activity in the downtown area. For example, these numbers do not reflect burglary reports, traffic accidents, etc. , which occurred in the downtown area. The categories listed are the types of call that were searched.
Calls for Service categories Downtown Citywide Total
Calls regarding fighting and assaults 65 159
Calls regarding a reported rape 5 19
Disturbance calls 998 3074
Family disturbance calls 12 154
Disturbance calls regarding loud parties 26 633
Drunk and disorderly calls 60 196
Totals - Calls for Service categories 1166 4235
In the first two categories, a call regarding a fight or a rape did not necessarily mean that an assault or rape took place, or that a report was even taken. Some of these calls were probably officer initiated for example when officer come upon a fight in progress. Disturbance calls are not only a result of calling in but also include self-initiated calls by officers. With the numbers of officers assigned to the downtown foot patrol beats with the mission of being proactive, it should be understandable that a number of calls would be self-initiated by them.
As a point of reference, there were a total of 32,422 calls for service citywide during the year 2001. The 1166 calls illustrated above represents only 3.6% of this call volume.
Foot patrols in the downtown area will continue not only on the weekend nights but will now be expanded to Thursday and Sunday evenings as well. Staff feels that the presence of foot patrols over the past few years has in fact reduced the number of assaults and other related crimes in the downtown area that would have occurred if the patrols had not been deployed. The police department will also continue to organize special details to focus enforcement efforts on crime problems citywide.
Michael Lavin, Chief of Police Stephen Burrell
Hermosa Beach Police Department City Manager
Statistical Report of Crimes and Police Activity for 2001
By HBPD Chief of Police Michael Lavin
Calls for Service in the Hermosa Beach downtown area compared to citywide Calls for Service in year 2001.
Hermosa Beach 2001
Calls for Service categories Downtown Citywide Total
1. Calls regarding fighting and assaults 65 159
65 / 159 = .4088
In 2001, the downtown area total of 65 calls for fighting and assaults makes up 40 percent of the Hermosa Beach citywide total of 159 fighting and assault calls.
2. Calls regarding a reported rape 5 19
5 / 19 = .2631
In 2001, the downtown area total of 5 calls for reported a rape makes up 26 percent of the Hermosa Beach citywide total of 19 reported rape calls.
3. Disturbance calls 998 3074
998 / 3074 = .3246
In 2001, the downtown area total of 998 disturbance calls makes up 32 percent of the Hermosa Beach citywide total of 3074 disturbance calls.
4. Drunk and disorderly calls 60 196
60 / 196 = .3061
In 2001, the downtown area total of 60 drunk and disorderly calls makes up 30 percent of the Hermosa Beach citywide total of 196 drunk and disorderly calls.
The Easy Reader - February 14, 2002 - Hermosa Beach
Assaults tied to downtown nightspots - Crime rates were continuing to decline or remain level compared to years past, with the exception of a significant rise in assaults tied largely to activity around the thriving Pier Plaza nightspots, Police Chief Mike Lavin said. Analyzing his department’s year-end crime statistics, Lavin singled out the rise in assaults as significant.
The Police Department recorded 141 reported assaults last year, a 45 percent increase from a year before, and a 32 percent above the average annual number of assaults through the last seven years.
“We looked at assaults citywide and about 40 percent occurred in the downtown area,” Lavin said.
That is about 56 assaults in the downtown area in 2001.
Nearly half the downtown assaults occurred on the Plaza itself, Lavin said.
That is nearly 28 assaults in the Pier Plaza for 2001.
Last year saw an increase in rape to nine incidents. The year before the number was six, the same as the seven-year average.
Reported rape cases were 4 in year 1995, 2 in 1996, 7 in 1997, 8 in 1998, 6 in 2000 and 9 in year 2001.
Lavin pointed to a nationwide problem of women being attacked after they become intoxicated on drugs or alcohol, on their own or through a surreptitiously given drug.
In Hermosa, a Police Department report in August 2001 found that two thirds of the nine reported rapes over a one-year period occurred in the small downtown area.
That is, the downtown area has 66% of the rapes, 6 reported for a one-year period in the August 2001 Police Department report, compared to the city as a whole.
“It’s unfortunate that women who live that lifestyle down there get in that situation, and there are a lot of wolves down there ready to take advantage of them,” Lavin said. “It’s pretty sick.”
The Beach Reporter - January 24, 2002
Cover Page - Crime increased in several categories in 2001
Ending a downward trend in Hermosa Beach criminal activity, the rate of illegal activity rose in some categories in 2001. Prior to 2001, crime rates had been declining in most categories.
According to Hermosa Beach’s final statistical report of 2001, 2219 crimes were reported in 2001 compared to 1882 crimes reported in 2000.
That is 1882 crimes in year 2000 and 2219 crimes in year 2001, almost an 18% increase.
Although there were no murders reported in Hermosa Beach this year, crimes such as rape, robbery, assault and DUI arrests all increased compared to 2000.
In 2001, nine rapes were reported compared to six rapes in 2000.
A 50 % increase in rapes from year 2000 to 2001.
There were 17 cases of robbery reported this year, compared to 13 last year.
That is 13 cases of robbery in year 2000 and 17 cases of robbery in 2001, a 30% increase.
The number of reported assaults rose from 141 to 97 in 2001.
That is 97 assaults in year 2000 and 141 assaults in year 2001, a 45% increase in assaults.
More people were taken to the station into the station this year as 846 were arrested, compared to 616 in 2000.
That is 616 were arrested in year 2000 and 846 were arrested in 2001, a 37% increase arrests.
Police reported no fatal traffic accidents. The number of police calls for service increased this year from 25,147 to 32,422,
That is 25,147 in year 2000 calls for service and 32,422 calls for service in 2001, almost a 29% increase.
While the number of disturbance calls also rose from 3,477 in 2000 to 3824 in 2001.
That is 3,477 disturbance calls in year 2000 and 3824 disturbance calls in 2001, almost a 10 % increase.
The Easy Reader – January 17, 2002
by Robb Fulcher
A man who was shot in a Pier Plaza bar, by a husband who believed the man had raped his wife, has filed a lawsuit against the bar. The lawsuit, filed Dec. 27 on behalf of Ali Sina Sharareh, alleges that a bartender at Patrick Molloy’s telephoned the husband, Anthony Starita of Redondo Beach, and told him that Sharareh was inside the bar. A representative of Patrick Molloy’s said she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment upon it.
Starita has pleaded no contest to a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon likely to produce great bodily injury, and was sentenced to one year in a work furlough program for the shooting. Starita admitted that he shot Sharareh in the rectum Jan. 3 after Starita’s wife told him that Sharareh had raped her. Sharareh proclaimed his innocence and was not charged with any crime. Police said his account of meeting Starita’s wife was consistent with that of witnesses, and they said the woman’s account contained inconsistencies.
The civil lawsuit filed by Newport Beach attorney Kenneth A. Satin claims that an unnamed bartender told Starita that Sharareh was in the bar. The lawsuit claims the bartender “knew, or should have known” that Starita would come to the bar to “kill or injure” Sharareh. The lawsuit claims negligence on the part of Molloy’s in the hiring and supervising of the bartender, and seeks unspecified damages related to Sharareh’s injuries.
Night of the shooting
Sharareh was shot with one round from a 9mm pistol Jan. 3 as he urinated into a trashcan in the men’s room of the bar. A witness to the shooting followed the gunman and saw him go out the back door, hop inside a red Mitsubishi convertible and make his getaway, a police report stated. Bartender Bruce Battey heard the single gunshot, saw a man run out the back door, then saw Sharareh run from the bathroom toward the front of the business. “He ran past me at the bar and said he’d been shot, then he ran out the front door,” Battey said in an interview shortly after the incident.
Battey, who worked as an emergency medical technician in his native Colorado, dashed to the men’s room to see if any other people had been injured. “The bathroom was empty, and I could smell gunpowder,” he said.
Battey made his way to the front door, and found Sharareh collapsed just outside. The bartender checked Sharareh’s vital signs, checked for an exit wound and found that there was none, and used two bar towels to stanch the bleeding from the entry wound the bullet made. “He was going into shock by the time the paramedics were taking him away,” Battey said.
Battey said Starita regularly hung out in the area. “The guy drinks Bass. I know what he drinks,” Battey said. “He’s a tough guy to miss, he’s really, really buff.” The bartender said he could not recall seeing Sharareh before the night of the shooting. He said Molloy’s is “a good place, and we always work to keep it that way. And the cops did a fabulous job, they were right on the ball.” ER
The Easy Reader – July 20, 2000
by Robb Fulcher
One of four women allegedly attacked by convicted rapist Nicholas Temkey has filed a lawsuit against Temkey and the Pier Plaza bar where he worked as manager. The club's owners were unavailable for comment this week. Temkey, 32, former manager of the Beach Club, pleaded no contest in May to charges that he raped one woman he met at the bar and attempting to sodomize another. As part of a plea agreement he was sentenced to four and-a-half years in state prison, and is likely to be paroled after serving about half his full sentence.
The civil lawsuit was filed by the first of the four women who came forward with accusations against Temkey. She alleges negligence on the part of the Beach Club and owners Jerry Centofanti and Pat McCauley, and accuses Temkey of sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment. Following form under state law, the lawsuit asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit alleges that the Beach Club "was and is a drinking establishment whereat reckless, raucous and wanton behavior, excessive drinking and negligent and criminal behavior were tolerated and promoted."
The suit alleges that the club owners "negligently screened, hired, trained and supervised" Temkey. The ex-manager "had a propensity and practice of engaging in negligent and unreasonable sexual acts with female patrons...to whom he had provided alcoholic beverages and/or drugs, and...had in fact done so with numerous other patrons on numerous other dates," the suit alleges.
The woman alleges that Temkey gave her free drinks on July 17, 1999 and then lured her into his upstairs office where he sexually assaulted her. Temkey closed and locked the door and "thereby imprisoned" the woman in the office, the lawsuit claims. The lawsuit describes the plaintiff as "a diminutive woman, small in stature," and describes Temkey as "a large and muscular man with a dominating and arresting appearance and personality."
Police have described Temkey as standing 6-feet-4 and weighing 235 pounds. Centofanti and McCauley were unavailable for comment this week.
Attorney Barry Greenhalgh of Encino, who represented Temkey at his criminal trial, also was unavailable on Tuesday. He has said previously that Temkey insists upon his innocence, but accepted a plea bargain to avoid a longer sentence. Greenhalgh said that the allegations came from women whose advances had been rebuked by Temkey. Deputy District Attorney Shanna Batten said the plea agreement spared the women a "tremendous amount of trauma" that they would have suffered from testifying at a trial and from press and public "scrutiny."
In exchange for the no-contest pleas, which have the same legal force as guilty pleas, prosecutors dropped five other charges against Temkey, sparing him the risk of a possible 15-year sentence. Once freed, Temkey must register as a sex offender with police wherever he chooses to live. Kauffman told him that failure to register is a felony, and would be the "third strike" against him after his conviction on the sex crimes. A third strike is punishable by a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. ER