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Posts from the LAPD Category

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L.A. City Faces Devil’s Bargain: Increase Limits To Allow Speed Enforcement

LAPD's Troy Williams speaks to Transportation Committee yesterday. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

LAPD’s Troy Williams speaks to Transportation Committee yesterday. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Over the course of the next two years, the city of Los Angeles plans to increase speed limits on many of its major streets. Why? According to the Police (LAPD) and Transportation (LADOT) Departments and due to pernicious state laws, cities are required to frequently study and increase speed limits to be able to actually ticket drivers who speed.

At the root of the problem is state “speed trap” law, which prevents cities from setting “arbitrarily low” speed limits. This law is defended by the California Highway Patrol and AAA. California requires local municipalities to periodically conduct speed studies and then to set speed limits based on how fast most drivers are already going. Cities are required to make the speed limit match the 85th percentile of prevailing traffic. Changes worsened the law in 2009 by taking away a modicum of local discretion to set slightly lower speed limits.

Combined with traffic engineering standards that favor auto speeds, this law results in a vicious cycle that favors faster and faster speeds. Speeders speed. City studies count speeders. Studies result in increases speed limits. This enables speeders to speed even more.

The state requires Los Angeles to conduct a speed study every seven to ten years. If speed surveys are not done, or if they expire, then LAPD cannot use state of the art laser speed enforcement devices.

At yesterday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee, LAPD officer Troy Williams bemoaned the state of speed enforcement in Los Angeles. Per Williams, as of late last year, 75 percent of L.A. streets had expired speed surveys, meaning that LAPD’s “hands are tied” and speed limits are not enforced. The figure is over 80 percent on the city’s targeted Vision Zero High Injury Network: 6 percent of L.A. streets where 65 percent of all deaths and severe injuries take place. In short, L.A.’s deadliest streets are largely places where LAPD cannot enforce speed laws.

Williams stated that in 2010, LAPD issued 99,000 speeding tickets and, in 2015, that number had dropped to 16,000. According to Williams, a great deal of LAPD laser speed enforcement equipment sits on LAPD shelves as officers have turned them in due to lack of use.  Read more…

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How Many Things Are Wrong With L.A.’s Latest Traffic Safety Billboards?

Eyes on the Street: LAPD, Clear Channel and XXX are releasing new billboard against hit-and-run crimes. Image via Clear Channel

Yesterday, LAPD and Clear Channel released their new “Obey the Rules of the Road” billboard campaign. Images via Clear Channel

At a press event yesterday, the L.A. Police Department and Clear Channel revealed a series of billboard images aimed to, according to their press release, “prevent distracted driving and reduce the number of hit-and-run accidents in the Los Angeles area.”

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With the help of social media commentary, we spotted five different ways that these billboards fail. Can you spot others? Our list is after the jump.  Read more…

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Vision Zero 101: Bike Lanes Are Not Parking Spaces

Parking enforcement often parks in the bike lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

LADOT’s parking enforcement officers often park in the bike lane, forcing cyclists into a busy traffic lane or onto the sidewalk. When asked about this practice on August 15, the parking enforcement officer whose car is pictured above declined to answer. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tap tap tap.

The parking enforcement officer looked up from his phone.

When he rolled down his window, I smiled and asked politely about his having parked in the bike lane on Los Angeles Street.

There was a long pause.

“And?” he raised his eyebrows.

Having only expected some, not total, disdain, I stuttered my way through my concerns about safety.

The lanes along Los Angeles St. between 1st and Aliso Streets are regularly blocked, usually by official vehicles that sit there all day, I gestured to the line of cars parked ahead of him, including an LAPD cruiser. The presence of the cars in the bike lane, I explained, meant that cyclists were forced to move into what could be a very fast-moving traffic lane on an often busy street.

He offered no response. Just judgmental eyebrows of silence.

I switched tacks and stuttered my way through a suggestion that, perhaps as parking enforcement, he might be able to help mitigate these problems by enforcing the codes. Vulnerable folks needed his help, I pleaded.

More silence. More eyebrows.

Finally, he muttered, “I have police business,” rolled up his window, and went back to his phone. A minute later, he exited the car and leisurely strolled toward the detention center.

Well, I thought. This was one of the less productive exchanges I’ve had in a while.

A parking enforcement vehicle occupies the southbound bike lane on Los Angeles St. in July. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A parking enforcement vehicle sits alone in the southbound bike lane on Los Angeles St. in July. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

* * * Read more…

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Transportation Committee Questions LAPD’s 8,000+ Annual Ped Tickets

Don't assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure

Don’t assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure

This afternoon the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee discussed a motion questioning the effectiveness of LAPD’s “jaywalking” enforcement. The pedestrian enforcement motion, 15-0546, was authored by City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who chairs the committee.

LAPD reported that there was no way to provide the analysis requested in the motion, but did provide some pedestrian enforcement statistics. In 2014 LAPD issued 8,068 citations for pedestrians who entered the crosswalk after the walk signal had ended, typically during the countdown. LAPD reported a recent increase in “in-crosswalk” fatalities, which numbered 27, 26, 34, and 35 in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively. When questioned by Councilmember Bonin, the police representative did not have information regarding who was determined to be at fault for these fatalities.

Councilmember Bonin pursued a number of lines of inquiry about LAPD’s pedestrian safety priorities, strategies, and effectiveness, but repeatedly came up against limited LAPD data.

Fellow committee members Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian expressed support for pedestrian safety, but generally focused their comments and questions on drivers’ ability to make turns at intersections.

Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds also testified, stating that there is a near-universal lack of understanding on crosswalk laws, which have not kept pace with the recent technology, especially countdown signals. Reynolds reported on recent timing changes at the federal level, dangers to seniors and other slower moving people, and stressed that LADOT and LAPD were partnering on a city Vision Zero steering committee, which is in the process of crunching data to inform enforcement strategies.

Committee chair Bonin concluded the hearing directing LAPD and LADOT to return to the Transportation Committee in 60 days. LAPD was directed to return with additional data on fatality causes, areas targeted, and impacts of current practices. LADOT was directed to report back on possible legislative changes and adjustments to signal timing.

With change needed in state law, and no clear consensus yet on an effective enforcement strategy, it doesn’t look like there’s any quick fix to, as Bonin characterized, L.A.’s countdown signals “literally giving a mixed signal.”

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Interview with Luke Klipp of Jaydancing

Come Jaydance in DTLA this Saturday. Image via Luke Klipp

Come Jaydance in DTLA this Saturday. Image via Luke Klipp

For as long as I can remember, Streetsblog Los Angeles has been lamenting the L.A. Police Department’s targeted ticketing of pedestrians. LAPD “jaywalking” enforcement occurs mostly in downtown Los Angeles, but also outside various central Los Angeles Metro rail stations. I am excited that Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Jose Huizar recently introduced a motion to begin to examine these stings, but it looks like the archaic walking law will probably need to changed at the state level.

If the LAPD’s misguided pedestrian enforcement bugs you, too, then you’ll probably like Luke Klipp. I met Klipp at a meeting where he testified in favor of full sidewalks on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. This Saturday, he is organizing “Jaydancing L.A.” a fun demonstration using artistic flair to protest the LAPD’s jaywalking stings. I interviewed Klipp over email late last week.

Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background? What led you to get involved in livability issues?
I grew up in Detroit, which probably doesn’t explain why I care so much about livability, except perhaps that Detroit was the antithesis of that, because it was both the Murder Capital and the Motor City. After college, I moved to California and to L.A. a few years later for love. And a few years ago, when my husband and I bought a home in Los Feliz, we found a place that was walkable, close to lots of amenities, neighborly, and still plugged in to the city.

I’ve always cared not only about livability but sustainability. When I see how we’re building our transportation network and developing our city, I think about the implications for me as I age, for our generation’s kids as they start to create their own families, and for our city’s ability to be a good steward of the environment that makes Los Angeles so livable to begin with. I was raised with the core value of leaving the world a better place, even if only in some small measure, for my having been a part of it. That’s at the heart of my passion around livability and livable cities.

What is Jaydancing? What can people expect to see? What do you hope to accomplish?
#jaydancingLA is an art protest in response to the LAPD’s ongoing targeting of people walking in Los Angeles. When the Mayor recently attempted to increase parking tickets as a revenue-generating measure, Angelenos were up in arms. And that’s for $70 tickets. In marked contrast, for at least the past four years, LAPD has been issuing jaywalking tickets at a rate of 12 per day, every single day, in downtown alone. That’s not a public safety measure, that’s a public gouging. I see an LAPD officer on average once a week posted right outside the Metro station at 7th St and Figueroa, waiting on the corner for unsuspecting pedestrians who make the mistake of stepping out into the crosswalk after the ticker has started its countdown. That’ll be $200.

So, on Saturday, June 20, from 2-3 p.m., people are invited to dance their way across, over, and through the crosswalks (legally, mind you) at some intersections in downtown LA along 7th Street. We’ll have music, signs, and a gathering afterward to celebrate. People are encouraged to post to social media using the #jaydancingLA hashtag with messages that continue to draw attention to the LAPD’s tactics.

Why dancing? This is downtown transportation – shouldn’t we be taking this very seriously?
Seeing stories of people who can barely afford the rent getting slapped with $200 tickets is maddening. I’ve wanted to scream at the folks at City Hall for their slow take-up of this issue. But it doesn’t matter how loud you are; it matters how effective you are.

We’ll be dancing BECAUSE it’s fun. Because it’s unusual. Because people will take notice. It’s not another protest with people marching and holding signs and chanting slogans; it’s tapping into Angelenos’ creative energies and having fun because you can only get so mad at the way things are. At some point you just have to channel that frustration and that anger into something beautiful, that makes people smile, and that gives people hope about what could be.

How can people get involved?
Go sign up on the Facebook event page and also on Eventbrite. Invite your friends, and show up on June 20 at 2 p.m.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Law Enforcement Takes the Lane

Signs, signs everywhere signs...are ignored. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Signs, signs everywhere signs…are ignored. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Usually when I’m writing about the questionable behavior of law enforcement, I’m looking at how racial profiling and the harassment of people of color — in either its more traditional or more blatant forms — can negatively impact those folks’ mobility.

But sometimes the hampering of mobility comes in more basic forms.

Yesterday, it came in the form of a fleet of vehicles parked in the buffered bike lane on Los Angeles St. in front of the Parker Center Police Dept. building in Downtown L.A.

Police cars parked in the bike lanes for much of the length of Los Angeles Street, just north of 1st. Sahra Sulaiman's terrible cellphone/Streetsblog L.A.

Police cars parked in the bike lanes for much of the length of Los Angeles Street, just north of 1st. Sahra Sulaiman’s terrible cellphone/Streetsblog L.A.

In the event you are wondering if perhaps it was just that the lane was not that well marked, behold the clearly buffered lane as it runs in front of the police buildings in a Google Maps view from March of 2015.

Google Maps screen shot of the buffered bike lane that runs in front of the Parker Center police building.

Google Maps screen shot of the buffered bike lane that runs in front of the Parker Center police building.

And lest you think perhaps there was a major emergency and the vehicles had been parked there in haste, behold the Google Maps shot from a little farther up indicating that, no, this is just common practice.

Nope, not a fluke. Thanks, Google Maps.

Nope, not a fluke. Thanks, Google Maps.

And not only is it not a fluke, some officers apparently give little thought to the protection of the good people of Los Angeles from fires during this terrible drought, as evidenced by the vehicle below, blocking the fire hydrant like a boss.

Nope, still not a fluke.

Nope, still not a fluke. #parklikeaboss

And just because Homeland Security is not one to be outdone, three of their vehicles parked in the bike lane on the same street one block up (just north of Temple). Read more…

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LA City Council Gets Tough on Hit-and-Run Crimes: New Rewards and Alerts

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander (center, at podium) touts the city's efforts to stem hit-and-run crimes at this morning's press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander (at podium) touts the city’s efforts to stem hit-and-run crimes at this morning’s press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve two new city programs that aim to stem the tide of hit-and-run crimes. According to Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander, hit-and-run crashes killed 27 people in Los Angeles in 2014, and 80 percent of recent hit-and-run crimes remain unsolved.

The city’s hit-and-run efforts were previewed at a press event this morning hosted by Councilmembers Englander and Joe Buscaino, with representatives of the police (LAPD) and transportation (LADOT) departments, and Finish the Ride’s Damian Kevitt.

Jose Vasquez leaves a candle at the ghost bike memorial for Andy Garcia, killed in a vicious hit-and-run last year.  Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Jose Vazquez leaves a candle at the ghost bike memorial for Andy Garcia, killed in a vicious hit-and-run in 2013. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The two new programs approved today include:

1 – New Public Alert System “Yellow Alerts” for Hit-and-Run Crimes

Established via council motion 14-0444, the LAPD will now publicize hit-and-run crimes via a new alert system. The alerts will be distributed via LAPD social media, including Nixle, Twitter, and Facebook, to enlist the public’s help in apprehending suspects who flee the scene of hit-and-run crimes.

Alerts will be dependent on the severity of the crime, and will be targeted to areas in and near the LAPD division where the crime took place. They will, of course, be limited by the information available, such as the license plate, vehicle, and description of perpetrator.

A similar alert system in Denver, Colorado, has improved conviction rates for hit-and-run crimes there. From the text of the motion [PDF]:

Medina [Hit-and-Run] Alerts have been in place in the City of Denver for two years and in the City of Aurora for one, and are issued in severe or fatal hit-and-run collisions when a description of the vehicle involved is available. Medina Alerts enable authorities to quickly broadcast information about a hit-and-run collision to the public on highway signs and through the media. In Denver, the city has also partnered with cab drivers and others who spend their working hours on the road, and alerts them when a collision occurs. Denver has issued 17 Medina Alerts since enacting their program; 13 of these cases have been solved.

2 – Standing Rewards for Information Leading to Hit-and-Run Convictions

Established via council motion 13-0025-S1, the city will now offer rewards to individuals who come forward with information that leads to the conviction of hit-and-run crimes. Councilmember Buscaino describes this as an attempt to “change the culture of driving away” from a crash.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Cars Running the Red at Venice and Robertson

Expo super-fan Gökhan Esirgen sends along the above video of cars running the red light at the newly-reconstructed intersection of Venice Blvd. and Robertson Blvd. Esirgen writes, “Note that this is not a seldom event — it happens for about five seconds in almost every cycle during rush hour and it’s typical of this intersection now. A pedestrian who looks at the signal but not the cars would be hit.”

Streetsblog editorial board member Jonathan Weiss forwarded the message to staff at LADOT. Before the afternoon was out, Jay Greenstein with Councilmember Paul Koretz’s office responded that engineers with LADOT are re-examining the intersection and LAPD’s enforcement division was notified.

We’ll keep an eye of our own on the intersection to see if there are any new, more positive, changes in the coming weeks and months.

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Are You Supposed to be Here?: Officer Harasses Black Cyclists during MLK Day Parade

Members of the Black Kids on Bikes and their supporters gather for a photo during the MLK Day Parade along King Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Members of the Black Kids on Bikes and their supporters gather for a photo during the MLK Day Parade along King Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“Are you supposed to be in the parade?”

Arms outstretched to halt the glacially-paced forward movement of the group, the LAPD officer stepped in front of long-time South L.A. Real Ryda and one of the area’s best-known cycling elders, William Holloway.

Stunned, we all looked at each other.

Is this man serious?

The Real Rydaz and some of the other low-rider clubs they teamed up with for South L.A.’s King Day parade yesterday specialize in parades. The great energy they bring by performing tricks with their intricately detailed bikes makes them crowd favorites around the city, but especially along King Blvd., where they have a long history with the community. It’s not unusual to hear people chant “Real Rydaz!” from the sidelines as they see the bikes approaching. Or to hear the entire crowd break into song, as they did yesterday, when Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday!” (written to celebrate Dr. King) blared from one of the Rydaz’ speakers.

“Sir, they ride in the parade every year,” I interjected. “Everybody knows them.”

Henry, Helen Myers, a Lady Rider, Shuntain Thomas, and others wait patiently for the parade to move forward. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Henry III, Helen Myers, a Lady Rider, Shuntain Thomas, and others wait patiently for the parade to move forward. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Holloway then began to speak up, as did some of the others, asking what the problem was and declaring that they had been participants in the parade for years.

Now a little less sure of himself, the officer kept looking back and forth between me (the non-African-American) and the Rydaz, as if he wasn’t sure he could take their word for it and I might be the one to provide the real story of what was going on. Read more…

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Days of Dialogue Opens Conversation on Police-Community Relations in South L.A., Gets an Earful

"Hands Up, Don't Shoot" Friends and family members of Ezell Ford shoot a music video decrying police brutality. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” Friends and family members of Ezell Ford shoot a music video decrying police brutality. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Dialogue was great, said a young man from Youth Justice Coalition as we left the Days of Dialogue on Police-Community Relations in the Aftermath of Ezell Ford and Michael Brown event held at Dr. Maya Angelou High School in South L.A. last night, but what he cared about was action.

It seemed to be a sentiment shared by many of the approximately 200 people that participated in the conversation hosted by 9th District City Councilmember Curren Price and Days of Dialogue, an organization founded in 1995, in the wake of the O.J. Simpson verdict.

The sentiment was particularly strong among the youth. They see themselves reflected in the cases of Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Omar Abrego (a graphic video of Abrego on the ground can be seen here) and, most recently, Clifford Alford, the young man mistakenly identified as a potential robbery suspect and brutally beaten by police while handcuffed on October 16, just two blocks from the school where the event was held. And they are tired of fearing that they could be next.

But these frustrations with law enforcement and fears of being victimized by those who feel at liberty to abuse their authority are nothing new.

When Patricia, the facilitator at the table where I sat with a dozen community members, asked us to give voice some of these concerns, she didn’t have to ask twice.

Helen, an African-American woman in her 70s and a life-long resident of South L.A., related a story about having stopped to ask the police for directions because she was lost only to have them run her plates instead.

“I didn’t ask them for that,” she said wryly.

She then went on to describe how her mother had sat her and her siblings down while they were still little kids to tell them that, because of the color of their skin, they would always have to make sure to move slowly and keep their hands visible at all times when interacting with the police.

For another young African-American mother at the table, those lessons still resonate today. During a recent routine traffic stop, she said, she had panicked and stepped out of the car with her hands up, announcing that there were babies inside.

“Kids move so fast and they’re not good at keeping still,” she explained. She had been afraid that any sudden movements the kids made might have prompted officers to open fire first and ask questions later (as happened recently in South Carolina, when a trooper shot a man after instructing him to retrieve his license).

To someone who has never experienced profiling or had a negative encounter with law enforcement, those sorts of reactions might seem like paranoia or even bias on the part of the speakers. For the participants in the dialogue, however, it was clear their apprehension and distrust might be better described as a trained response to years’ and years’ worth of, as participants put it, being “terrorized,” “pre-judged,” “abused,” “disrespected,” “harassed,” and “left unprotected” by officers. Read more…