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|Santa Monica's Common Ground Has Had No Impact on Crime, Statistics Show|
By Jason Islas
June 4, 2012 -- Two decades of police reports reveal that crime did not increase at the former site of the Santa Monica-based nonprofit Common Ground, despite residents' claims that the agency poses a safety risk to the neighborhood.
The agency, which offers treatment and preventative education to low-income HIV and AIDS patients, has recently come under fire from neighboring residents who oppose the organization's move from Bay Street to Cedar Street on Lincoln Boulevard.
But a comparison of crime report statistics from the 10 years before Common Ground moved to Lincoln Avenue and Bay Street and the 10 years while it was at the Bay Street location shows that there was little increase in crime.
“It is significant to me to see essentially flat numbers for crime throughout the 20 years," said Jeff Goodman, Common Ground's interim executive director. "This seems to indicate that we had a neutral effect on the neighborhood.”
Goodman was referring to an e-mail sent on May 15 by Community Resource Officer Artis Williams, who compiled data on crime reports for the 600 and 700 blocks of Bay Street after a request at a community meeting in February.
During the decade which Common Ground was operating at the Bay Street location -- 2001 to 2011 -- there were 133 reported crimes in the 600 and 700 blocks of Bay Street, according to Williams.
“Out of the 133 reported crimes, I only found three reports that had any reference to Common Ground, their clients or employees,” Williams said.
Williams also looked at the crime reports from the years 1991 to 2001, the 10 years before Common Ground moved to the location at Bay Street.
“It appears that there was no change in reported crime in that area – 133 reported crimes from 2001 to 2011 (11 years) and 124 reported crimes from 1991 to 2000 (10 years),” Williams wrote in an e-mail dated May 21.
There was a small increase in narcotics possession crimes in 2010, he said.
Looking more closely at those cases, Williams found “4 of the 5 narcotics possession arrests were made by the school resource officers and the arrests involved SAMO HI students and they were arrested just after school let out for the day.”
Even the opening of the needle exchange program, which has been a bone of contention with residents, had no impact on crime in the neighborhood, Goodman said.
The program, which allows drug users to exchange old hypodermic needles for new, sterile ones, as a preventive measure for HIV, is prohibited by Federal law at the new site because it is near several preschools, Goodman noted.
Not everyone, however, is convinced by the statistics.
Friends Sunset Park President Zina Josephs said that many of the problems residents have had with Common Ground clients may not show up on crime reports because they were not reported to police.
“Would you call the police if you were a woman being sexually harassed (sic) while walking past Common Ground to go to the local hair or nail salon, week after week?” she asked rhetorically in an e-mail responding to a question whether residents had reported their concerns to the police.
Josephs was referring to “a Bay Street resident who described ten years of being subjected to sexual harassment” by Common Ground clients, she said.
The woman Josephs was referring to also claimed at an April 25 community meeting that she was “afraid to let her children play in the front yard or walk to school,” Josephs said.
“None of that would probably have shown up in Police Department or Fire Department logs,” she said.
As part of Common Ground's move, the agency has agreed to relocate its
Homeless Youth Peer Education (HYPE) program, which residents claim was
a major source of the problems.
Since the new site likely won't open until August, it remains to be seen just how much of an impact Common Ground will have on its new neighborhood.
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