Long Beach, News

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia focuses on lowering crime rates through new justice lab

Seconds before a symphony of applause filled the auditorium, bright lights shined on Mayor Robert Garcia of Long Beach. The stage was his. He commandeered his audience and, with confidence said: “The state of our city is strong and getting stronger.”

Residents from every corner of Long Beach filled the Terrace Theater in downtown Long Beach to hear Mayor Garcia’s fourth annual state of the city address.

He mentioned how the city is currently tackling issues regarding the need to maintain a healthy environment, improve the city’s infrastructure and decrease crime, which has fallen by 7.9 percent compared to 2016.

During his speech, Garcia unveiled the Long Beach Justice Lab, a project that the city’s innovation team has been working on over the past year. According to Garcia, the lab has gathered data from members of the justice system and aims to help those vulnerable to smaller crimes.

Dale Lendrum, one of the attendees at the event and a professor of communication studies at Cal State Long Beach, praised the city’s new project. Lendrum said the justice lab is also working with a student group at the university called Rising Scholars.

“[The purpose of the lab] is to help individuals break the cycle of going to jail and provide hope for them through higher education,” Lendrum said. “I’m formerly incarcerated. There’s a lot of us on campus who have been and now we’ve formed this group…to give people hope.”

Long Beach city officials also plan to decrease crimes through establishing a mental health clinician position in the city jail.

Garcia’s report also touched on the efforts of Measure A, a 10-year $380 million investment plan for infrastructure and public safety. This would fix miles of streets, sidewalks and buildings. He attributed construction workers’ efforts to the city’s success.

Long Beach resident Kiry Kravanh, 30, said that this investment plan will help the city greatly.

“I feel the talk about infrastructures of the communities and roads … would be a huge push for our tourism,” Kravanh said. “That’ll be a thing that Long Beach could really benefit from.”

One of the challenges city officials plans to face this year is housing.

According to Garcia, the rising growth in population has also affected the limited housing available for residents.

“We need housing of all types but especially for seniors on mixed income, working families, college students and those experiencing homelessness,” Garcia said.

He also attributed the lack of housing supply as a competitor to students’ completion of education. He said students cannot find a place to live and it is getting more difficult to rent or purchase a home.

Kravanh said one of the main reasons he came to the event was to hear the city’s plans for tackling the homelessness epidemic and marginalized communities.

“I do a lot of community-based work. Doing anything as far as charity work to help out children and senior citizens and the Cambodian community or other communities of color … is very important to me,” Kravanh said. “I felt that [Garcia] did a great job at really touching base and talking about what he plans to do. The things that he’s doing are so progressive.”

Garcia also touched on other highlights of 2017 and what’s in store for Long Beach this year:

  • Euthanasia rates among animals has dropped and adoption rates have increased.
  • Long Beach Airport has added flights to Hawaii.
  • Poverty rates have dropped from 21.1 percent in 2014 to 18.8 percent this past year; though he mentioned that neighborhoods like Central Long Beach has pockets of extreme poverty that still need to be addressed.

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