West Hollywood’s city council voted on Monday to defund their sheriffs – despite crime earlier this spring rocketing 137 percent, year on year.
The proposal will see the current force of around 60 sheriffs’ deputies reduced by four.
Funds saved by reducing the headcount will be used to pay for unarmed ‘security ambassadors’, under a scheme called Block By Block.
Despite slashing the policing budget, the council agreed to stump up funds for a Russian arts festival – increasing their contribution by $14,000 to $50,000.
Lauren Meister, mayor of West Hollywood and a member of the council who voted against the plan, called it illogical, noting that the Los Angeles enclave is afflicted by violence.
West Hollywood’s city council voted on Monday to defund their sheriffs – despite crime earlier this spring rocketing 137 percent, year on year (file image from 2020)
‘I’m not going to vote for the budget if we cut the sheriff’s (funds),’ Meister said, according to local news site WeHoville.com.
‘First of all, nobody has the gun problem that we have in this country. You can’t expect us to have a public safety team where most of the people aren’t armed in order to defend our citizens.’
West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station polices the City of West Hollywood and the unincorporated communities of Franklin Canyon, Universal City – which includes Universal Theme Park, Studios, and Citywalk – and the Federal Enclave in West Los Angeles.
Fellow councilman John M. Erickson, voted with her to oppose the plan.
‘Community safety is our number one concern,’ he told Fox News.
‘When I’ve heard from countless residents about how they want to feel safer, that involves comprehensive planning and something that is not just drawn out over a decision.’
The proposal was passed three votes to their two.
Sepi Shyne, who proposed the plan, said the sheriffs cost too much, and the Block by Block program represented more ‘bang for the buck.’
‘What we know now is our residents want foot patrols,’ said Shyne.
‘We need to be fiscally responsible.
Los Angeles County Sheriff officers disperse demonstrators protesting over Breonna Taylor in West Hollywood, California on September 25, 2020
‘And we have all talked for two years. Reimagining policing means reallocating funding. You can’t just say it without actually doing it. Period.’
John D’Amico, another councillor who voted in favor of Shyne’s plan, emphasized that it will see more people patrolling the street, through the Block by Block plan.
‘In my mind, this is an increase of safety services with 60 additional eyes on the street working directly with the residents and the sheriff and code compliance and our social services providers – and two fewer deputies this fall,’ he told Fox News in a statement.
The first two deputies will go in the fall. Three more will depart over the year – but the headcount will only go down by four, because an additional deputy will be added to the Entertainment Policing division.
Residents are uneasy about the decision, WeHoville.com reported, saying that residents and business owners from all over the city have for the last few months expressed their deep concerns about cutting the sheriff’s budget in the midst of a crime wave, and at a time of general unease.
West Hollywood is known for its vibrant gay community, and the shooting in Oslo during Pride set people nationwide on edge. Furthermore, Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion issued on Friday, concurrent with repealing Roe v. Wade, suggested ending gay marriage and other civil rights.
In February, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) reported that crime in West Hollywood had risen 137 percent compared to the same time last year.
February 2022 saw roughly 250 ‘Part One’ crimes reported, including murder, rape, burglary, aggravated assault, arson, and human trafficking.
There were 105 such incidents reported in February 2021, KTLA reports.
This number also marks the highest monthly total of crimes classified as ‘Part One’ since LASD began recording those statistics.
The decision to defund the sheriffs comes only a week after Captain Bill Moulder was sworn in to head the West Hollywood office.
On June 16, Moulder told Beverly Press he planned to focus on preventing the most common crimes in the district – property offenses and assaults.
‘Because the things driving our numbers are theft-type crimes, that has and will continue to be our biggest focus,’ he said at the time.
Lauren Meister, the mayor of West Hollywood, voted against the plan to defund the sheriffs
‘Particularly crimes occurring in our nightlife establishments, like pickpocketing, that are occurring inside the establishments and outside on the streets.
‘Street robberies will be a focus as well. Violent crime is always a concern, and we will work to address that.’
Moulder said statistics show nearly one-third of street robberies involve people who are unhoused, so he plans to increase outreach work, in collaboration with the city, to address the issue.
‘It’s important to do outreach, and I think we can really make a difference in preventing crime,’ he said.
‘I have had a lot of contact with the community, our city itself and the City Council, and have developed a great working relationship. I plan to continue that work. It’s an honor to serve in this capacity.’
He has not commented on their Monday night vote.