Since the start of summer, while many families are enjoying vacations, time off from school, and great weather, the residents in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles are enduring a spike in property crimes, ranging from home burglaries to vehicle break-ins. The community has banded together and partnered with the Los Angeles Police Department to remedy the problem through the Baldwin Hills Surveillance Project.

According to LAPD Senior Lead Officer Kevan Beard, there were five burglaries between June 15 and July 18. There have been no homicides, but there has been one robbery (not a home invasion) and two vehicles were broken into. The community, which is one of the wealthiest primarily African American communities in the nation, wants to know what is being done.

“There are several things we as a police department are doing and [that] will be done in the future,” said Officer Beard. “There are a few upcoming block club meetings that I will be attending in order to let the community know about crime in the area. These meetings take place on a regular basis and are an avenue for the community members and the police to meet and discuss what is going on within the community. At these meetings, I give crime prevention tips and/or handouts about how to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a crime.”

There is a task force that is being put into place in the very near future to specifically address crime issues that are taking place within the Baldwin Hills and the Baldwin Village areas.

“We are still getting out the message of the ‘Lock it-Hide it-Keep it’ campaign, which is being used to reduce the number of vehicles being broken into. If you lock your vehicle and hide your valuables you have a better chance of keeping your property,” said Beard.

The Baldwin Hills Estates Homeowners Association is in the process of collecting funds to purchase cameras and signs to be installed in the community. The cameras will be similar to those installed in Baldwin Village and will be monitored at the Southwest Community Police Station. These will be used to both deter crime and, hopefully, aid in the apprehension of and prosecution of criminals.

“Originally the plan was for us to get gates, but that never happened, so a year ago we started working to get cameras mounted on the light posts like they have in Baldwin Village,” said Robert Cole, president of the Baldwin Hills Estates Homeowners Association. ” Crime has dropped tremendously there now that the cameras have been installed, and we want those same results here.”

Cole identified that the strategy will be to have eight cameras put in place on the major streets that lead into “the Dons,” such as Hillcrest Drive, La Brea Avenue, Stocker Street, Don Felipe Drive and Marlton Avenue, and the cameras will run 24/7 and be monitored by an on-duty officer at the Los Angeles Police Department Southwest Division.

The cost of the project is $133,397 and the homeowner’s association is asking that each household in the area contribute $110 (or more if possible) to cover that cost.

“It’s a one-time fee,” said Cole, “and so far the community is on board with it. We have already collected a little over four thousand dollars and that is only based on the word of mouth and door-to-door that we have been doing. We haven’t sent out the official mailer yet.”

Cole believes that the reason for the recent spike in crime in the area is that in addition to it being the summer, when kids are out of school and likely to get into more trouble, that the cameras in Baldwin Village have pushed the crime upward into “the Dons” [streets that begin with the name Don, as in Don Tomaso].

One resident who lives on Don Felipe Drive, which seems to be the epicenter of many of these break-ins, was willing to discuss the situation. She claimed that most of her neighbors are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation, and even she requested to remain anonymous.

“Someone is out there watching the residents in my neighborhood,” she said. “These break-ins are happening in broad daylight when people are at work and someone is watching to know when someone will and will not be at home. One of the homes on my block has been burglarized twice.”

The residents of Baldwin Hills say that they have noticed a slight increase in police patrols in the area but that it isn’t enough. “Really, right now we are trying our best to look out for each other,” she said.

Cole is encouraging the members of the community to get involved and stay informed on the happenings of the neighborhood by attending the block club meetings and staying in touch with block club captains.

The Baldwin Hills Estates Homeowners Association plans to hold a meeting this Saturday (July 28), at the Consolidated Realty Building at 3725 Don Felipe Drive, Los Angeles from 9-11 a.m. to discuss future plans of the surveillance project.

Officer Beard will be in attendance to show maps of where the cameras will be as well as to answer questions about how the project will work and the effects that it will have.

For more information on the Baldwin Hills Surveillance Project, call the homeowners association secretary at (323) 292-4342.