A change in strategy to revitalize a struggling San Fernando Valley business district has proven worthy for local businesses and residents one year later.
The plan, Business Watch, got officers and business owners to connect and find ways to curb crime and bring in more customers.
"Right now it's completely different," resident Rosa Garcia said. Her small clothing store on Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima is right in the middle of what Los Angeles police call the "vein" of the neighborhood.
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LA City Councilman Felipe Fuentes' first mission after his July 2013 election was to find a way to bring more business to his Pacoima district.
"This part of the San Fernando Valley, we certainly could use more security and safety, but really more investment," Fuentes said. "I think we want to target those areas where we want to see more investment and we want to bring more amenities so folks realize it's not only safe, but it's secure and clean for folks to come shop, live and recreate."
Business Watch, according to Fuentes, is a partnership with LAPD and the more than 200 small businesses that make up the Van Nuys Corridor from the 5 Freeway to Foothill Boulevard.
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"Before, it was a huge, huge problem," Myke's Cafe owner Rafael Andrade said. "And it has drastically changed. We haven't had graffiti in over two years now."
For Andrade, that's progress.
"There was a point where we first came into this area and there was graffiti in the front and homeless in the back," Andrade said, adding that police officers who often walk by have provided phone numbers should business owners need assistance.
The captain of LAPD's Foothill Division, which patrols Pacoima, said it takes a special kind of officer to interact with business owners. He hand-picked LAPD Officers Fernando Sanchez and Adriana Sanchez (unrelated but both from the Pacoima area).
"A lot of what we're doing is gathering information about what's happening along the corridor," Fernando Sanchez said. "Then we know where to focus our patrols. Now crime is down here in Pacoima, and we have an opportunity to go in and talk to them one-on-one, get to know them, get to know what their concerns are and see how long they've been here for."
In the last nine months the program has been in existence, police have arrested 20 people with outstanding warrants, solved numerous burglary and theft cases and made arrests in an ID theft ring, he said.
"I think this is something that every division should have," Fernando Sanchez said.
But with so much ground to cover and businesses to visit, some business owners question LAPD's intent.
"Never heard of it," said Gregory Faucett, who runs Stylesville Beauty Salon and Barbershop. In business for 57 years at the same location, Faucett said he can't recall any police officer stopping in for any reason.
"They drive past and ride bikes past, but they've never stopped in to mingle with the customers or the owners, no," he said.
Faucett, who remains optimistic, said he has noticed more of those drive-bys and he's seen officers visit businesses around him.
"Anything that's gonna better the community, I'm cool with that," he said.
Adriana Sanchez points out that they work 10-hour shifts and it's been a struggle to reach every business. Some short conversations can turn into storytime, she said.
"And that's actually a good thing, because it allows them to open up to us," she said.
Fuentes said in order to make the program successful, the people who live and work in the area have to take a major role.
"Between the property owners, the residences and the businesses, there's a real synergy here to make sure that we're making this community as strong as possible for new revitalization," Fuentes said.
By cleaning up the corridor, it could entice businesses to move into the area or expand their business from somewhere else, he said.
"We've already had a tour with Sriracha and talked to them about this location," Fuentes said.