A recent rise in burglaries in West Los Angeles has prompted a group of residents in Brentwood to petition the city to make their neighborhood a gated community—well, sort of. Some area neighbors feel like the alley behind their homes is an easy access point for criminals and want to close it off to the public.
"I think the open access to the alley is a problem to our neighborhood," resident Paul Kasick told Patch. "It's an easy in-and-out, a covert way to get in, there aren't a lot of people back there."
There were 39 reported burglaries in the area in 2010, a 133 percent increase from the previous year, and almost a dozen since the beginning of this year, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Kasick's home has been burglarized three times in the last three years, he said. LAPD confirmed his claim. After his first burglary in January 2009, Kasick erected a tall fence, installed an alarm system in the garage and the house, as well as motion sensor lights in the alleyway and on the side of his house. Kasick's biggest concern is that he has two young children who are traumatized as a result, he said.
"They're hiding things in their bedrooms because they don't want someone to steal it," Kasick said. "If it happens again, we are absolutely going to move."
After taking several safety precautions, participating in community meetings about crime and having police come to his house to offer suggestions, Kasick rallied his neighbors and petitioned the city to have the alley closed.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl attended a South Brentwood Residents Association (SBRA) meeting and suggested Kasick work with police on his idea for closing off the alley.
Patch called Rosendahl's office for comment and was referred to LAPD.
"No decisions have been made yet," Phillip Enbody, LAPD senior lead officer for Brentwood, told Patch. "We've run the crime stats on (the area), which are low compared to the other alleys that have been closed in the city."
Enbody told Patch that once his captain, Evangelyn Nathan, drives through the alley to survey the scene, a recommendation can be given to the councilman's office on whether police think there is enough cause to warrant closing off the alley. Rosendahl would then need to bring a motion before the council for a vote.
Enbody said he understands residents concerns, but he's got concerns of his own.
"If we shut down this alley, we've got seven other alleys that are similar," Enbody said.
Closing the alley would also eliminate another possible quick avenue of access for police in the event of criminal pursuit, Enbody told Patch.
The city used to have a program for just this scenario, but had to discontinue it because of funding. Although residents are willing to fund their own project, Enbody thinks that a city contractor may have to be involved because the alley is on city property.
Patch drove through the alley in question (See attached video). Its southern entrance starts at Goshen Avenue and runs north between Amherst and Wellesley avenues. Just before the alley reaches Darlington Avenue, it splits into a T-intersection to the east and west. Because the alley curves about halfway from its starting point at Goshen Avenue, there is a stretch that is hidden from anyone looking into the alley from all three of the its openings.
Several houses have garages which open into the alley, but other than that there is little resident activity in the area, neighbor Ric Levis-Fitzgerald told Patch.
Security camera signs are plastered on a resident's fence, graffiti and patches of cover-up paint riddle others. One Amherst Avenue neighbor painted his back fence bright pink, thinking that would deter graffiti.
"But you can see the different shades of pink on the fence," Levis-Fitzgerald said, which means the measure hasn't worked.
Another neighbor circulated footage from his security camera of three men walking through the alley and peering over a fence into his neighbor's yard (See attached video). He wanted to remain anonymous because the break in was likely gang-related, he said.
"I have a wife and three young children and I don’t want to become a target," the source wrote in an email to Patch. "Not long after the video ... was captured, the security cameras were stolen (from the alley)."
Levis-Fitzgerald was also offered footage of a nanny walking down the alley pushing a stroller and stopping to urinate there in broad daylight, he told Patch.
"That's how secluded the alley looks and feels," Levis-Fitzgerald said. "We'd love to have a gate that any public utility has access to that maybe keeps people from being able to hop fences back there."
The community is open to input from LAPD and the City Council regarding how the gate would work, Levis-Fitzgerald said. Maybe it's an automated gate that residents, police and city workers have access to, he said.
But criminals don't care about gates, wrote Shedrick Nance in an email to Patch. Nance is the manager for a residential building near Sunset Boulevard and Barrington Avenue.
Nance sent images to Patch from his building's security cameras of three suspects in an alleged Jan. 20 burglary (See photos attached). The residential building is gated, but is still a target for criminals, Nance wrote.
"So far it has been all garage burglary but we get hit a couple of times a year, it seems, despite security measures, Nance wrote.
Mika Nishiguchi, a resident of the building, wrote to Patch that one of the suspects was arrested for allegedly threatening one of the building security guards with baseball bat during the burglary.
Patch is awaiting confirmation from LAPD to verify her statement.