By Edwin Folven, 12/20/2012
Officials release plan in school shooting’s wake
The Los Angeles Police Department will increase its presence at all 543 public elementary and middle schools in the city under a plan unveiled Monday by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy, as a response to the tragedy that occurred on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Uniformed officers will randomly visit each of the schools at least once a day as a deterrent to violence. Beck said in addition to uniformed personnel, plain clothes officers will visit the schools, bolstering the barrier to any problems. The chief said private and charter schools can also contact their police stations to request random police visits to their campuses.
“Beginning in January, when kids return to school, Los Angeles police officers will be present at least daily at all elementary schools,” Beck said. “We want to send a message to anyone who sees this coverage [of the Connecticut school shooting], and sees it as an opportunity for them. The Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department will deal with you in a way that is appropriate. Our schools are safe, and this will make them safer.”
LAPD officers are currently stationed at each of the LAUSD high schools, augmenting LAUSD officers, but their presence is sporadic at elementary and middle schools because of the large number of campuses, according to Beck. He added that officers will make the school visits part of their regular patrol duties, and will also patrol around the campuses whenever time allows. Classes resume at most LAUSD elementary and middle schools on Jan. 7.
“They can’t be there the whole time, but they will be there,” Beck said. “Nobody will ever know when, and they won’t know if it is uniformed officers or plain clothes officers. These schools are the right place to be, and we want to be there at the right time.”
Beck said there are currently no specific threats against local schools. On Sunday, however, officers from the LAPD’s Northeast Division arrested a 24-year-old man — Kyle Bangayan of Pomona — at his parents’ residence in east Hollywood after he allegedly posted threats on Facebook. Officers found nine firearms and ammunition during a search of the residence in the 1200 block of North New Hampshire Avenue. Bangayan was later released, however, because the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges. Bangayan reportedly did not name any specific school or individual, which is required when filing a charge of making criminal threats, according to a statement issued by the district attorney’s office. The statement also indicated that Bangayan told investigators he made the postings “as a joke.” Beck said authorities took Bangayan’s postings very seriously, and in light of the tragedy in Connecticut, officers moved very quickly to neutralize any threats.
“A follow-up investigation was done, and an arrest was made,” he said. “We want to say that this is not tolerated. We will do whatever it takes to stop it.”
Deasy welcomed the news about officers visiting schools daily, and said a contingent of first responders from the LAUSD and the LAUSD Police Department have traveled to Newtown, Conn., to see if there were any “lessons learned” that could improve security at campuses in Los Angeles. He added that counselors will be made available when students return in January.
Villaraigosa also announced Monday that the city’s gun buyback program, which is usually held each May, will now be held on Wednesday, Dec. 26, in an effort to get more guns off the streets.
“Cities and states must join with the federal government to do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to keep our communities safe,” he said. “It is absolutely critical to provide Angelenos with concrete actions they can take today to make our city safer tomorrow.”
The Gun Buyback Program will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, Parking Lot 6, 3939 S. Figueroa St., and at the Van Nuys Masonic Temple, 14750 Sherman Way. Individuals who turn in guns can receive a Ralphs gift card valued at up to $200 for assault rifles, or a $100 gift card for handguns, rifles and shotguns.