ANAHEIM – About 60 concerned residents and business owners gathered with police officials Monday night to begin a process they hope will curb drug use and prostitution along a notorious one-mile stretch of Beach Boulevard in west Anaheim.
The two-hour session had a lot of questions and few answers – for now. And that was by design.
Officials, including police Chief John Welter and Lt. Eric Trapp, who oversees the west division, said they wanted to use the opportunity to listen, take questions, and get residents thinking about the problem and how they could help police solve it.
On Aug. 20, police will invite the residents and business owners back to the same Brookhurst Community Center room to form subcommittees with police and city officials to start finding solutions.
“This is not a new problem, but we are looking for a new approach,” Trapp said. “This is a much larger problem than (police) can handle. We need your help.”
Trapp said that since Jan. 1, police have received at least 220 calls for service from the area of Beach Boulevard between Ball Road and Lincoln Avenue resulting in 180 arrests, mostly for narcotics activity.
Police have also made at least 25 arrests for prostitution. Trapp said the number of prostitution arrests may under-represent the amount of street prostitution in the area because Anaheim police have tried to focus on street prostitutes as victims of human trafficking rather than criminals, sending them to get help rather than to jail.
Residents had plenty of questions for police, saying that they are concerned about prostitutes openly walking the street and “johns” taking them to local motels and parking lots and into surrounding neighborhoods to perform sex acts.
•How many police are routinely on duty in west Anaheim?
•Can volunteers help patrol the streets?
•How can residents identify drug activity and prostitutes?
•Can police establish a hotline in which residents can report suspicious activity?
•Can surveillance cameras be set up?
•Why are prostitutes considered victims when they make the choice?
Welter said he does consider prostitutes victims because many are young women who are coerced into a lifestyle of selling their bodies for money, and they get trapped in it with seemingly no way out.
Police used the metaphor of a “crime triangle,” explaining that police are only one side of that triangle. “The other two-thirds are up to you to help break the cycle,” Welter told the crowd.
That area of Beach Boulevard is filled with motels that advertise low rates and weekly rates.
At least three motel managers or owners participated Monday night.
“I figure I am either part of the solution or part of the problem,” said Cindy Espinoza, general manager of Baymont Inn & Suites. “(Police and residents) are doing their part, so I want to do my part to help clean things up.”
Residents had a mixed reaction to the first meeting, though many were optimistic. Cappy Brown, 77, a resident of the area since 1963, said she was impressed to see Chief Welter attend the meeting – a sign to her that police were taking the problem seriously.
“I just want to make sure that it’s not a dog-and-pony show – just a few meetings, then they go away,” said Judithanne Gollette, a member of the West Anaheim Neighborhood Development (WAND) committee. “As prosperous a city as this is, this is just one mile. Isn’t it in everybody’s best interest to make this a more business-friendly, clean area?”
By ERIC CARPENTER / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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