Coyotes and stop signs

Signal Hill residents express citywide concerns with SHPD during ‘coffee with a cop’ event


Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune

Signal Hill police officers sit down with local residents to discuss citywide issues and concerns on Nov. 13 during a “coffee with a cop” event hosted at the Signal Hill Police Department station.

The large doors of a conference room located inside the Signal Hill Police Department (SHPD) had just swung open when the first resident walked in. SHPD Cpt. Brian Leyn and Lt. Ron Sagmit welcomed in the man and invited him to a cup of coffee and a donut.

The SHPD hosted a “coffee with a cop” event Nov. 13 and invited residents to come to the station to discuss concerns they had about the community with law enforcement in a casual setting.

Before the event officially began, Captain Leyn told the Signal Tribune that the department had been dealing with many calls concerning coyotes in the neighborhoods.

“We haven’t had anybody bit,” he said. “We’ve had reports of some dogs and cats that have been killed.”
Leyn said that it is difficult to respond to such calls because animal-control groups are the ideal services to assist with wild coyotes in neighborhoods.

Leyn also mentioned that, as the holiday season nears, the department is anticipating a rise in “porch pirates” that will steal packages off of people’s property.

“Of course a lot of people are going to get their stuff from Amazon here in the next few weeks,” he said, “and you’ll have your porch pirates, as they’re called, drive up and steal them.”

Attendees mostly brought up issues about speedy traffic at intersections and drivers who disregard stop signs.
One resident mentioned that he has reported seeing drivers ignore stop signs along Raymond Avenue and 20th Street. Sagmit said that he would inform the traffic officers about the resident’s complaint.

Officer Gregory Friend, who specializes in traffic-related crimes, told residents that he has pulled over many drivers on Cherry Avenue because they drive erratically when heading northbound.

Several of the drivers who Friend stops say they are not familiar with the roads near Costco on Willow Street. He said that he oftentimes writes many citations for traffic violations near that area.

“Be defensive,” Friend advised. “You can’t count on everyone else to follow the rules.”

Residents asked police if they had noticed an increase in theft and break-ins. Sagmit said that there had been a rise in crime historically, but that he was unsure what the statistics stated in more up-to-date reports.
One resident, who identified herself as Joy, said she noticed individuals committing petty theft in alleyways along 23rd and Burnett streets. Officer Taylor Byrd commented that he needed the help of the public to pinpoint where the theft takes place.

“If you don’t report it, we don’t know,” he said.

One resident mentioned that the recent fires burning in Malibu and other nearby regions have made him aware of possible fire hazards in his neighborhood. He claimed that one of his neighbors had overgrown vegetation on their property, and he believed it could spread a fire in the event one started.

Sagmit said the police could do little to help with those type of calls and advised the resident to call the City and report a code violation.

The public also voiced their concern over the transient population in and around Signal Hill. Residents were mostly concerned with the high volume of homeless people they claimed to have encountered, also inquiring if transients were getting the right type of help. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported in May that there had been a 3-percent decline in homeless individuals in 2018– a first in four years.

Despite the reported decline, Byrd said there has been more homeless in Signal Hill.

“Since I’ve been here– almost three years– it’s certainly grown,” he said. “I don’t think this is a problem that sprung up overnight; it’s been here for years.”

Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune
During the “coffee with a cop” event Nov. 13, residents notify Signal Hill Police Department officials that they are concerned if the homeless population in the city is receiving adequate help. Attendees mostly expressed concerns over reckless drivers, traffic infractions and vehicle break-ins.

Councilmember Larry Forester attended the meeting and conversed with officers and the public. Concerning the homeless, Forester said that there is an increase in panhandling, or asking others for money, near the end of the month.
He said that at the end of the month, social-security funds begin to run dry, and that causes the homeless come out to “panhandle” more than usual.

This may also cause transients to break into houses and cars as they scavenge for supplies, Byrd said.
“We are doing our very, very best,” Sagmit said. “But homelessness is not a crime. It’s not against the law to be on the street.”

Overall, Sagmit told the Signal Tribune he was pleased with the interactions between his police officers and the residents during Tuesday’s event.

“We had maybe 10 or so residents, we had some local politicians and we heard some great viewpoints and concerns,” Sagmit said. “We heard about stop signs and traffic stuff, and I think that’s a good sign.”

In hindsight, Sagmit admitted that concerns about small crimes are not as alarming to hear if compared to gang shootings or murders.

“In the scale of things, I much rather be dealing with issues relative to traffic,” he said, “rather than dealing with a group of homeowners who are concerned about a shooting or multiple shootings in the area. So, I’ll pick my poison– I’ll pick traffic.”