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Nestled in the foothills of Los Angeles County, just south of the 210 Freeway, Pasadena, California, best known worldwide for the annual Rose Parade and locally for the famous Rose Bowl, the venue for one of the region’s most notoriously famous swap meets, bowl games and even NFL Super Bowl championship games, has experienced a 24 percent decline in violent, gang related crime, despite regional news reports that tend to focus on and sensationalize gang violence.
Currently involved in forming a strategic plan to help set goals and initiatives for the period 2008-2012, the City of Pasadena Police Department, lead by Chief Bernard K. Melekian, who has served in that capacity since 1996, is building on a previous plan that patterned itself as a ‘beacon of excellence, innovation, and integrity in all that we do.”
Janet-Pope Givens, adjutant to the chief of police, who has served the Pasadena Police Department and the citizens of Pasadena for the past 23 years, spoke to the Sentinel about crime in the City of Pasadena.
Pope-Givens is a non-sworn, civilian management employee who joined the force as an administrative analyst and swiftly was promoted to a management position within her first 12 months of employment. She has been assigned to the chief’s office since 1991 and explained that since Chief Melekian’s arrival, the primary thrust among police officers has been the reduction of gang violence and the elimination of youth homicides.
“In his first five-year plan, Chief Melekian received some criticism for his assertion that there would be no more dead kids in Pasadena,” Pope-Givens said. “However, he remained committed to that goal and thanks to the hard work of the Pasadena Police Department representatives and volunteers, and the community, we have seriously reduced the incidence of serious crimes and gang-related violence.”
In fact, between 1999-2001 there were no gang-related homicides in the City of Pasadena and year to date, there have been only eight.
Pope-Givens cited the 1993 killing of three ‘trick-or-treaters’ that captured the citizens attention and caused an increased level of awareness and community support of crime-prevention activities.
“The entire city was motivated to end street violence,” she said. “A variety of programs were launched to involve children in crime prevention programs and other community-based activities to help curb street violence.”
The majority of serious crime in the City of Pasadena is attributable to the community of Northwest Pasadena which, coincidentally, is the most densely populated area of Black and Brown residents. While the city’s Black population is approximately 18 percent, Pope-Givens indicated that most of the gang activity consists of roughly 450-500 self-declared, Black and Brown gang members affiliated with eleven identified gang sects.
In addition to broad support from the city’s elected officials, the police department relies on its citizens to curb serious street crime. To address the city’s gang-related problems, Pasadena has placed its emphasis on community policing tactics that include a broad range of activities involving the city’s volunteers, police officers, school officials and police and others.
Pasadena’s Police Activity League (PAL), according to Pope-Givens, is one of the most active and effective programs of its type in the state. Essentially, it involves police officers interacting with the city’s young people from age eight, in a comprehensive set of after school and out-of-school programs. Supported by the Salvation Army and the Downtown Los Angeles Tabernacle, the program offers everything from peer counseling to homework assistance for young people who may otherwise be at-risk of engaging in criminal activities.
In addition to the successful and ongoing PAL program, the Police Department also is proud of the Kid’s Safety Academy which targets elementary-aged children in a variety of safety programs, the Youth Advisor Program which pays high school aged teenagers to mentor, counsel and advise younger children and the Team Citizen Police empowers the community’s adults, familiarizes them with police operations and prepares them to assume volunteer assignments with the department.
“Regardless of what is often reported by the media, Pope-Givens explained, “the City of Pasadena Police Department, working with all elements of the community that we serve, has had major impact on the reduction of violent crime in our city and with the continued leadership provided by Chief Melekian.” She added, “we certainly hope that the positive results will continue.”