Hermosa Beach Alcohol-Related Offenses Climb as Pandemic Restrictions Ease

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Alcohol-related arrests and citations were on the rise this past weekend in Hermosa Beach following Friday's announcement by health officials that the county was moving into a less restrictive tier in the state's "Blueprint for a Safer Economy.''

Hermosa Beach Police Department Chief Paul LeBaron did not release exact figures but said there was a clear increase in offenses and activity over the weekend that have generally been lower than usual during the pandemic.

HBPD statistics show certain crimes on Pier Plaza and in downtown fell this past year as COVID-19 closures and restrictions eliminated or significantly reduced the late-night party atmosphere that was common on weekends and holidays pre-pandemic, LeBaron said.

The HBPD reported that:
- total calls for service in downtown Hermosa Beach declined 58%, from 5,718 calls for service in 2019 to 3,303 calls for service in 2020;
- public drunkenness arrests also decreased, from 67 public drunkenness arrests in 2019 to 37 in 2020; and
- assault and assault with a deadly weapon arrests also dropped, from 70 arrests in 2019 to 41 in 2020.

With fewer police resources devoted to downtown's late-night disturbances, the HBPD has had more time during the pandemic to focus on detecting and preventing other crimes, including targeting vehicle break-ins, package and bicycle thefts, drug violations and conducting undercover operations, according to LeBaron.

LeBaron said the police department was able to launch "Project Secure'' during the pandemic as a crime prevention initiative designed to educate residents on ways to protect their homes and vehicles.

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"Property crimes continue to be the most common crimes in our community,'' LeBaron said. "Project Secure is another way for us to remind residents that closing garage doors, locking vehicles and securing valuable property can help keep criminals and crime out of our community.''

As part of the program, officers leave pre-printed cards to let residents know that an officer on night patrol has secured their property -- sometimes by closing a car door that was left open, for example.

But as businesses open back up and revelers want to celebrate, LeBaron said the department will be ready to handle that change in activity.

"We will continue to work with the community to ensure that Pier Plaza and downtown Hermosa Beach are welcoming and safe for all our visitors, including families with children,'' LeBaron said.

The county officially made the move to the less restrictive tier at 12:01 a.m. Monday, but the shift was announced Friday when the state met the threshold of administering 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in low-income communities across California that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

When it met that threshold, the state eased the requirements to advance through the four tiers of the blueprint, which governs business restrictions based on the spread of COVID-19. The new requirements allowed Los Angeles County -- as well as neighboring Orange County -- to move out of the most restrictive purple tier and into the red tier, allowing such activities as indoor dining to resume at 25% of capacity.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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