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Street Robberies Anger Silver Lake Community: 'Why Didn't We Know Until Now?'
Since December 30th, the Silver Lake and Echo Park communities have experienced ten street robberies where all the victims were males walking alone. Six of them took place in Echo Park around Sunset and Alvarado through the first week of January (only one took place later in the month) and in the last week, four were committed in the Rowena-Hyperion area of Silver Lake. One such incident over the weekend, where the victim later woke up in the hospital, spread like wildfire through e-mails and community-made flyers handed out on the streets.
Another victim was walking on St. George Street at 2:30 a.m. last Friday night when two male hispanic suspects walked up from behind him while he was talking on his cell phone. They asked him for his property, knocked him to the ground and used a knife to cut his face.
But not all the incidents have taken place late at night. One 19-year-old victim was robbed and stabbed at 3:30 in the afternoon on Glendale Blvd. The suspects pulled up in a car, jumped out, robbed him, and drove away.
Are they Gangmembers?
"It's probably the same gang," Lt. Steven Delores at the press conference yesterday. "Normally we don't have a rash of crimes like this." And if gangs are responsible, "these are different gang territory areas," clarified Councilman Eric Garcetti.
"The descriptions [of the suspects] are not very good," Delores said. What police know is that all the crimes were committed by two to four hispanic males. In two of the robberies, handguns were used and in the other ones it was knives.
And although Delores suspects gangs, he also described them as "opportunists cruising the area looking for victims."
Communication to the Residents
A couple of themes have come out this. The obvious is for the community to be more vigilant in their day to day lives and in community policing. But the bigger issue for many is that you can't be vigilant if the police are not telling you what to look out for in the neighborhood.
"In an era when your councilman can Twitter you about what he's eating for dessert, the LAPD still seems slow about getting the word out when it comes to neighborhood crime," noted Jesus Sanchez at The Eastsider LA.
For Garcetti and Councilman Tom Labonge, they first heard about it on Monday, after the four Silver Lake robberies, which the community connected together with the Echo Park incidents.
"All I know is what comes to my attention and we act on it," Labonge explained. "We got a call yesterday, I called Captain Smith, he investigated it, put the analysis together and here we are today."
Community Meeting & Addressing Misinformation
Labonge has set up a community meeting for Thursday evening at Ivanhoe Elementary School (2828 Herkimer St.) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
To promote it, Labonge and Northeast Division's Captain Lance Smith hit the streets of Silver Lake for two hours last night going from storefront to storefront handing out flyers and talking to people walking on the sidewalks. Everyone seemed to know about the crimes already--thanks to the internet and community flyers--but had a lot of misinformation. Rumors spread that these were hate crimes, which police have found no evidence of.
The victim described in neighborhood flyers and in internet chatter still had his personal belongings with him when he woke up in the hospital, leading people to think it was purely hate related. But it is believed by police that something happened prompting the suspects to flee the scene--say barking dogs or ambulance sirens in the distance--before taking his stuff.
"There's a lot of misinformation out there," Garcetti said in the parking lot of the police station. "We grilled [the police] about. We know how to identify that stuff. This doesn't bare any resemblance to that, not to say it couldn't be, though."
Back in Silver Lake... "Hi, I'm Tom Labonge, we have a little problem with some crime in the area," he told the bartenders and waiters at Blaire's Restaurant. He handed out flyers for the community meeting and explained to them how to best keep themselves safe. And then he did it over and over and over again throughout the night with every person he bumped into.