Long Beach’s community policing programs are set for an expansion, the City Council decided during its July 5 meeting.

Council members weighed a proposal to add as many as 25 additional officers to the bicycle beat at its Tuesday, July 5, meeting — and asked city staff to move forward with a study on the best way to do that. The city will also expand its neighborhood walks policing program.

“Residents have asked us to do more on violence prevention,” said Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, who brought the issue before the council. “This is one way that we can take a program that we’ve already done — and rebuild public trust.”

A memo, submitted by Richardson and Councilwomen Cindy Allen and Suely Saro — Second and Sixth district representatives, respectively — argued that expansions of Long Beach’s existing neighborhood walks program and bicycle officers would benefit neighborhoods with higher crime rates by switching focus from an increased police presence to community engagement.

Those programs, Richardson said, “build trust and congruence with the community and the police department — particularly in underserved communities and make a real impact.”

City staff is now tasked with finding money in the 2023 fiscal year budget for larger investments in existing community policing programs. A major question posed by some city councilmembers is how to determine whether those programs will be funded by overtime — or whether they will require structural changes in the Police Department’s makeup.

The proposed investments would include a 25-officer addition to the Long Beach Police Department’s bicycle beat patrols. Richardson, at the July 5 council session, said he’s “flexible” on that number, noting that it could be less or more.

Long Beach city staff have yet to conduct a financial review of the request, but in an updated report said the financial impact would be “significant.” It’s uncertain whether that would be additional spending or shifting resources away from another budget. The city’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Currently, the city pays $1.5 million to fund its bicycle beat cop unit, which consists of four officers and one sergeant, said LBPD officer Paige White. That unit is assigned to the South Patrol Division, from Anaheim Street southward to Harbor Scenic Drive and from the Los Angeles River eastward to Cherry Avenue.

Long Beach will also look to boost its Neighborhood Walks patrolling program. In past pilots of that program, Long Beach provided “overtime hours to allow officers to simply walk around in a given relatively high-crime area of the city, rather than responding to calls to service,” the memo said.

Whether or not future expansions will operate the same way has yet to be determined.

The city initially launched Neighborhood Walks in March 2021 in the Washington area. Since then, LBPD has conducted other walks in North Long Beach, as well as in the South Long Beach area that surrounds Rotary Centennial Park and the Anaheim Street business corridor, according to LBPD’s website.

Most recently, in May, LBPD conducted a community walk in the neighborhoods surrounding the East Village and the downtown entertainment district.

On neighborhood patrols, officers “conduct ‘walk and talks’ on a regular basis by periodically stopping their patrols to get out within the community,” according to LBPD, “and discuss issues of importance to the public.”

Reported shootings in the Washington neighborhood dropped 40% from March to April 2021 after the city implemented the Neighborhood Walks pilot program there, according to the city memo. In North Long Beach, the memo said, shootings decreased 20% from the previous summer

“We can’t say it’s directly a result of the Neighborhood Walks program,” Richardson said at the July 5 Council Session, “But there’s a correlation there.”

Long Beach City Manager Tom Modica said on July 5 that he submitted his recommendations for the city’s 2023 fiscal year budget to Mayor Robert Garcia’s office last Friday. That proposed budget, Modica said, includes a proposal from Police Chief Wally Hebeish to “look at how we restructure within the police department,” with a focus on community policing.

The proposed budget will be presented to the City Council and general public in late July or early August, Modica said, following Garcia’s review.

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