CITY COUNCIL: City bolsters prosecution to pursue nuisance crimes
by Mark McDermott
The Manhattan Beach City Council, thwarted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office in its hopes of prosecuting non-violent crimes the DA no longer pursues, finally found a way to address at least some of those crimes. On Tuesday night, the Council unanimously voted to add prosecutorial capacity to pursue some of the quality of life crimes not under the DA’s purview.
The City will expand its relationship with City Attorney Quinn Barrow’s firm, Richards, Watson & Gershon, hiring a prosecutor at $234 per hour to increase its enforcement of smaller crimes. Misdemeanors eligible to be prosecuted include trespassing, graffiti, illegal shopping cart use, public urination, public nuisance, and smoking in public. In addition, infractions including drinking in public, unlicensed dogs, unvaccinated dogs, unleashed dogs, and dogs on the beach can be prosecuted.
“It should be noted that…reinforcing prosecution services will not provide authority to the city to prosecute state misdemeanors,” said George Gabriel, assistant to the city manager. “Some of state law misdemeanors include public intoxication, disturbing the peace, drug and paraphernalia possession, and more. Prosecuting state misdemeanors requires the consent of the Los Angeles District Attorney, which the city does not have at this moment. However, the city is working towards addressing that with our state legislative representative, consistent with council direction.”
Councilperson Amy Howorth said that although she was leery about pursuing dog-related infractions, going after misdemeanors should positively impact public safety.
“What we’re trying to do is to cut down on some of those, I’m going to call them public nuisance type issues,” she said. “Unfortunately, this isn’t going to cover the state or the federal crimes — the shoplifting, the theft — some of the stuff that people notice a lot. But public nuisances, drinking in public, public urination, and trespassing — people really feel those crimes.”
Mayor Pro Tem said these might seem like small crimes but they have a big impact.
“I see it also as being a good effective tool to cut down on nuisance crimes, but really, it’s more than more than a nuisance,” Franklin said. “I was just looking through the list and just thinking, ‘Well, trespassing, that sounds like it could be a little bit benign.’ But you’d be upset if somebody came into your yard or came into your home or onto your property that you didn’t want…And you’re able now to call the police and have that person processed for trespassing. Same thing with graffiti. I mean, that’s a crime against all of us.”
In praise of pressure washing
In other matters, the Council voted unanimously to bring a service it formerly contracted out in-house. The Public Works Department will add a supervisor and three full-time employees to perform pressure washing and other related services for maintenance of downtown Downtown Manhattan Beach and the North Manhattan Beach Business Improvement Districts.
The new positions will cost $385,000 annually, and the new service will required three new trucks, a one-time cost of $165,000. But Public Works Director Erick Lee said that Athens, the company that formerly performed the service, and three bidders who submitted to take over the pressure washing, all proposed charging roughly $900,000 annually. Additionally, Lee said, City employees are able to do the work more comprehensively.
“We think that on the city’s staff side, we can provide enhanced service levels, more flexibility, and more agility to get to areas that might be technically out of scope for a contractor but the city workforce just knows that these are things that are good for our community.”
Councilperson Amy Howorth cited an example of this. Public Works employees have been doing the pressure cleaning, temporarily, as the City went out for bid since Athens’ contract expired at the end of August. Howorth was on a morning walk on the pier and discovered a pile of dog excrement. She saw some of the Pubic Works employees in the area, and when she went to ask them if the pile could be cleaned up, they were already on the task.
“We’ve made a note of it, and we are going to go get the washer. We are going to take care of it,” Howorth recalled one of the workers telling her. “So, it’s that — it’s that pride of place.”
Jill Lamkin, president of the Downtown Business Association, raved about the improvements since the City took over this task.
“I cannot tell you the difference in the level of service that we have experienced over the last couple of months since it’s become city employees that have a vested interest in what happens,” Lampkin said. “I went to Public Works ‘all hands’ meeting last week to personally introduce myself and thank them for the amazingly conscientious job that they are doing. I’ve had businesses who have told me how much better it is, farmers market vendors have told me, ‘Oh my gosh, it used to smell when I stood here, and it’s all clean.’ What used to be the waterfall in Metlox — it doesn’t smell anymore. I mean, I can’t even tell you.”
The council voted unanimously to hire the new Public Works employees to carry on the work. ER