Long Beach City Council heard stories of a rampant crime spree in Park Estates Tuesday as residents demanded the city shut down access to their community via an unlit easement over an open storm drain.
Over 20 community members from Park Estates shared their thoughts on a city proposal to shut down the pedestrian bridge at Elmfield Avenue “in order to address persistent crime and public safety issues.”
The easement connects the Park Estates community to East Atherton Street between Clark Avenue and North Bellflower Boulevard at the Northwest corner of campus. Members of Park Estates said the easement is directly responsible for a recent increase in local property crime.
“I just want to say that progressively, things have gotten worse in the neighborhood,” said Ron King, a resident of Park Estates. “My home has been burglarized. It’s a slippery slope and it’s getting worse.”
Many people who spoke out in support of closing of the pedestrian bridge had been theLos victim of a crime. Some had had their homes broken into, others had woken up to the contents of their car scattered across their lawn.
“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 30 years,” said Rebecca Corey, a resident of Park Estates. “We’ve had nothing but robberies, paychecks stolen, packages stolen.”
The easement in question is sheltered and out of the public eye: it’s set back more than 10 feet from the road, flanked by buildings, and covered by large trees.
“The little alcove next to the bridge is unlit and can’t be reached by law enforcement and it has become a den of crime,” said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Lowenthal. “Needles, cigarettes, and other drug paraphernalia can be found there.”
He isn’t the only local to have seen things like this.
“One thing that bothers me is that transients are sleeping where the preschool is,” resident Ingrid Nicola said. “These are kids that are 2 and 3 [years old] and these people are walking through and talking to these kids, I noticed that they’re dropping all sorts of [drug] paraphernalia.”
The preschool, Edgewater Preschool on East Atherton Street, is a 20-minute walk from the Walter Pyramid. The shaded and unlit easement where residents have seen drug paraphernalia is right behind the preschool and is easily accessible from it.
Not all of the local residents want the easement to be closed. Some Park Estates residents are segregated from the wealthier and greener community by the storm drain.
“I don’t have a million-dollar home, I’m a public school teacher,” one resident said. “All we have on this side is road. All I have is that bridge.”
Some residents were skeptical that the pedestrian sidewalk was related to a recent increase in crime.
“I’ve been a resident of Park Estates for 25 years,” said resident David Eastman, “and for 25 years I have talked about that bridge. What we have heard here [tonight] is we got crime in the neighborhood. The basic idea that criminals are coming across the bridge? There is no evidence.”
Councilwoman Suzie Price, who brought the proposal forth, said she had been “hounded” by residents for years to address the crime related to the pedestrian bridge. However, after having heard from more residents, she revised her submitted proposal to address their concerns.
“With the competing concerns we have in mind, I have been working all day to put in a compromise that we can add as a pilot placement,” Price said. “To the folks in the complex, I walk, I get it. Limiting access to residents who walk in the area is not an issue and not a concern.”
Price amended the proposal to add a gate at the bridge with a pin code. The code would be given to anybody who calls or emails the city during a 60-day pilot period.
“Will it be perfect? Probably not,” Price said. “That’s what the six month period will be about.”
She spoke directly to those who had seen crime in the area.
“You have to call the police,” Price said. “If we don’t have police reports reflecting the condition, we cannot take action.”