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Koreatown asks LA Mayor Karen Bass to take action on public safety concerns

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Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and LAPD Interim Chief Dominic Choi visited the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles (KAFLA) on the morning of April 17. They held a roundtable discussion on public safety with about 10 Korean Americans and discussed preventive measures.

The event was organized by the mayor’s office to gather public opinion in response to complaints about various crimes in Koreatown.

“Restaurant thefts are on the rise because they have long been recognized as cases in which the police do not respond,” said Wonsuk Kang, owner of Dasom By Chef Kang. “This leads to cash theft and vandalism, which in turn leads to business closure.”

Kang’s business was burglarized in February, but he didn’t file a police report. The crime scene was captured on video and shared with the Korean-American community, but no police action was taken.

Mayor Karen Bass greets James Ahn (right), president of the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles, as she leaves the Korean American Community Center after a discussion. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

John Park, a resident of Koreatown, said, “My house was broken into in the morning when my wife and my daughter was in there, but the police didn’t come until later in the afternoon,” adding, “This is the kind of situation that makes people say that reporting is pointless.”

Yongho Kim, chairman of the Korean American Food Industry Association, said, “There are a lot of crimes these days, so the presence of patrol cars and police officers has a deterrent effect when it comes to crime,” adding, “This is why our member restaurants are so welcoming to the police officers and firefighters that they give them a 50 percent discount on their orders.”

Kim suggested creating and distributing “safety posters” to Korean-American businesses that provide tips on how to deal with crime and how to report it.

John Lee, president of KAGRO, agreed, saying, “We know that there is virtually nothing that can be done about the vicious thieves due to the lack of police force. It’s all about crime prevention, and if we have our own patrol team, it will help prevent crime,” he said.

LAPD Interim Chief Dominic Choi expressed his sympathy for Park’s situation and promised to work with the officers to make their patrols more effective, saying, “Similar to the volunteer program in the valley area, we can organize and contact with the patrol officers.”

“I think more security cameras would be a good deterrent to crime,” said Jay Kim, Vice Chairman of the Korean American Chamber of Commerce LA. “I wonder if the city is willing to expand the number of security cameras like in China or Korea.”

“If cost is an issue, I think the Korean-American community could find a way,” added James Ahn, the president of KAFLA.

Interim Chief Choi said, “It is difficult to expand cameras due to privacy concerns. However, we are planning to implement a Crime Scene Reporting Center at the Central Community Police Station as a pilot program where police can directly access the cameras installed in businesses and view the contents of the scene.” “If there is a certain effect, it can be expanded,” he explained.

“Crimes against homeless people will be prosecuted with the same standards,” said Mayor Bass. Bass then explained the city’s efforts by saying, “but if we don’t get people off the streets, it will be more costly and damaging.”

“With the community’s support, we’ve secured eight interpreters, and we hope their work will lead to more reports and arrests,” said Olympic Community Police Station Captain Aaron Ponce.

The mayor’s office plans to incorporate the feedback from the organization leaders and the public into a concrete plan.

The event concluded about an hour after the start of the discussion. “Just like Rome was not built in a day, at least this event was meaningful in that we started to find a way together,” Ahn said.

BY BRIAN CHOI, JUNHAN PARK    [ichoi@koreadaily.com]