Interview with L.A.P.D Senior Lead Officer Perry Jones
and the Wilshire Division Cyber Support Unit
The MMRA annual surveys reveal that burglary tops the list of crime concerns for Miracle Mile residents. Lately, there have been rumblings that burglaries seem to be on the increase. We decided to get the facts from the L.A.P.D. Senior Lead Officer for the area covering the Miracle Mile. Perry Jones is known for his professionalism and his strong relationships with the community. As an example of this, to accommodate the deadline of this newsletter Officer Jones came into the station on his day off for this interview and insisted on putting on his uniform for the photo that accompanies this article [below]. We met at the L.A.P.D Wilshire Division.
Officer Jones, what is a Senior Lead Officer?
A Senior Lead Officer is basically a person that is assigned to a certain geographic area in the City of Los Angeles, we’re responsible for the good and bad and indifferent. We take care of all the problems in the community and we are the liaison between the community and the police department. So, we are the ones that bridge the gap. We get the resources to fix a problem or we fix them ourselves.
How long have you been the Senior Lead Officer for the Miracle Mile area?
I’ve been at the Wilshire Division for twenty-three years and a Senior Lead Officer for the past twenty years. They re-did the geographic area about six or seven years ago and that’s when I inherited the Miracle Mile area. The Wilshire Division is divided up into nine Basic Car Areas and the Miracle Mile is in Basic Car Area 7A33 [see map below].
Is it fair to say that sometimes the perception of the crime rate seems to be in the eye of the beholder, regardless of what the actual statistics might be?
If I’m the victim of a crime, crime is at an all-time high and if I live three blocks over – and it doesn’t effect me – crime is at an all-time low. I can give you the numbers in my area, but numbers don’t mean anything to me. If I have one crime victim in my area I have a problem. I prefer to have zero crimes. So, for me to say that crime in my area is down 24% over last year is only mildly interesting if I have a crime victim on South Ridgeley. I’m not numbers driven. Having been a victim of crime myself, of burglary and car theft, I know personally what I want when someone steals from me: I want that person caught, I want them arrested, and I want my stuff back. And I want to feel safe – and that’s what we’re striving to do at Wilshire Division.
What is the truth about the crime rate in the Miracle Mile?
Overall, in Basic Car Area 7A33, we’re down 23.4% from last year. I’ve had 92 total burglaries this year, last year at this time I had 127. We’ve had a dramatic reduction in burglaries.
What do you attribute this reduction in burglaries to?
Community involvement and education. We’ve passed out close to 20,000 flyers this year about burglary prevention. We’ve been walking foot beats. We’ve been dedicating our resources to what we call our ‘dots on the map’ and when we get a cluster of dots in a particular area that’s where we devote our resources.
Do you find that burglars concentrate on a particular area where they’ve had success? Do they return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, to commit more burglaries?
The easier it is to get into a home, the more visible valuables inside the home are, the more concealed it is by shrubbery, the more poorly illuminated, no alarms, no dogs, with high fences – anything that would buy more time for a burglar to break in and give them cover to get out – those are the homes that burglars target. It takes a burglar a few seconds to get inside and they’re out of your house in two-to-three minutes. That’s a lot faster than we can ever respond.
We always hear that the best defense is neighbors looking out for neighbors.
The way we catch bad guys is a combination of burglar alarms and the eyes of the neighbors. The eyes of the community have allowed us to catch a lot of bad guys this year.
How do alarm companies interface with the police department?
When your alarm goes off the alarm company contacts our dispatchers, they try to get as much information as they can, and then we get the call. It takes about three-to-four minutes. But by the time we get the call and get the helicopter overhead, the bad guy is usually gone. But when we have a neighbor that sees them going in, we get that call quicker than we get a call from an alarm company. The neighbor can give us a description of the suspect. That’s the kind of call we look for. We have a much better chance of getting that guy.
So, residents shouldn’t hesitate calling the police, even if they’re not certain if a crime is being committed?
Anytime you sense something is suspicious or out of the ordinary it never hurts to call us. If we show up and catch a bad guy, wonderful. If we show up and nothing bad is going on, that’s wonderful, too. It gets people in the habit of communicating with the police department and that deters a lot of crime. And knowing your neighbors and looking out for each other is the best determent against crime.
Would it be useful if residents included surveillance cameras in their security systems?
Cameras are very, very helpful for us – particularly if they’re placed in the right positions on the exterior and interior of the property. The first thing we do in an investigation is look for video footage.
How important is having an inventory of your possessions if you are burglarized?
Keep it all: serial numbers, photographs, receipts – anything that helps to identify your personal property. We recover a lot of things, but we need documentation to link it back to you. We recover an enormous number of bikes, but we don’t know who they belong to, because the owners didn’t know the serial numbers. I’ll stop a guy with seven iPads in his backpack and I know they’re stolen, I’ll run the serial numbers, but they come back clean because the folks they were stolen from didn’t have the serial numbers when the reports were made.
What should people do if they come home and they see that their residence has been broken into?
Call 911. Don’t go inside or you could become a victim of more than just a burglary. Call us. Let us do our job. Our number one priority is protecting life. Let us come and clear the property and make sure the bad guy is gone and that you’re safe. If you go in and check it out yourself and then call us, well, then it’s just a reporting call for us and it might take us some time to get there depending on how busy we are. We protect people first and property second. Don’t clear your home yourself; let us do it.
From what I understand, vehicle burglaries seem to be, by and large, crimes of opportunity. People tempt smash-and-grab thefts by leaving smartphones or laptops in plain view.
Numerous times walking through the Miracle Mile I have seen people who have left their smartphones inside their cars plugged into their chargers with the cord leading to the console or under the seat. The thief sees that cord and thinks: ‘I’ll take a chance breaking into this car.’
[Accompanying Officer Jones to the interview were Officers Robert Davenport and Joe Armstrong with the Wilshire Division Cyber Support Unit; the interview continues:]
Officer Davenport and Officer Armstrong, what are your assignments with the L.A.P.D?
Armstrong: We are the Cyber Support Unit for the Wilshire Division. The unit has been around for about two years. We are tasked with monitoring social media. Each L.A.P.D. division has their own social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We disperse important information to the public
Davenport: We try to get the pulse of the community and to support the community and the businesses. We don’t just do crime prevention tips, we also want to let everyone know that Officer Jones is out there meeting with the community, that he’s available to the community. That we’re not just guys in uniforms who only care about placing people under arrest. We live in this community. Social media gives us a chance to demonstrate that we are human and that we’re just trying to help people navigate through their day.
It seems that what the Cyber Support Unit is doing is extending the principles of community based policing into the 21st Century.
Davenport: Yes, our problem was that the police department was slightly behind the times because the digital revolution came on so fast. When Captain Leslie first came onboard he promised that Wilshire Division would have a larger footprint in the social media world and when Officer Armstrong joined us he challenged us to do that. He created a website for the Wilshire Division and we’re the first division in L.A.P.D to have our own website. He also created a phone app for Android and iPhones. We’re the first to do that as well.
Armstrong: We have about 7,000 followers on our Twitter account. We have an Instagram account – people like to have photos. We have a Facebook account and we’ve started creating videos for our Vimeo account.
Davenport: If you repeat the same message over and over it becomes dull. The unique thing we do is to try to keep it fun as well as informative. We keep it interactive with maps and a community events calendar. It provides the community with a digital forum where they can talk to us.
Armstrong: Wilshire Division has a smartphone application available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Search for “LAPD Wilshire” on either store and you can download it for free.
Los Angeles Police Department, Wilshire Division
4861 West Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019