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Homelessness And Public Safety Top Issues For LA Mayoral Candidates

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - With the spike in crime that came in 2021, public safety has become a top issue for candidates running for Mayor of Los Angeles.

From homelessness to crimes captured on camera, the city saw a major jump in follow-home and apparent flash-mob robberies last year, which prompted the Los Angeles Police Department to form a violent crime task force.

There was also a significant rise in homicides.

In 2019, there were 258 homicides, but by 2021 that number jumped to 397, the highest number of murders in nearly a decade.

"Now, obviously, so many people, when you talk to people, just friends, neighbors on the street, people are concerned about their safety," said political expert Jessica Levinson.

Karen Bass
LA Mayoral Candidate Karen Bass. (CBSLA)

LA Mayoral Candidate Karen Bass said she plans on making public safety one of her priorities, and part of that plan, she said, is to increase the number of LAPD.

Bass said her goal is to put 250 officers back on the streets by hiring civilians to take over administrative work.

It's an approach to public safety that other mayor hopefuls, like Councilman Joe Busciano, Councilman Kevin de León and City Attorney Mike Feuer, have also talked about.

"This is something you hear over and over again from Angelenos, that they really are concerned about the rise in crime, and you can't run for mayor and you can't be the frontrunner without addressing that head on," said Levinson.

Currently, LAPD is down hundreds of officers from where they were in 2020. Sgt. Jeretta Sandoz is the Vice President of the LA Police Protective League.

"We have less officers. Violent crime is rising, rising homicides. We are down 600 officers, so we can't depend on a grand promise. We need a concrete plan for funding that addresses issues right now," Sandoz said.

LAPD Officers

Currently, Bass' public safety plan does not address where the money will come from to make the hires a reality.

"It's a head scratcher because the plan calls for more police officers patrolling the streets. However, she did support the defunding of the police department by $150 million and that resulted in 600 fewer police officers trying to keep Angelenos safe," said Sandoz.

Those cuts to LAPD were approved by the LA City Council in 2020. They followed the protests over police brutality in the wake George Floyd's murder.

Melina Abdullah is cofounder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. She helped lead the charge to defund police and is disappointed over Karen Bass' new public safety plan.

"Unfortunately, it feels like this public safety plan gets her away from who she is, which isa real community organizer with ground in South Central Los Angeles. And this public safety plan seems to be pandering to wealthier Westside and Valley interests who might be afraid of black, brown and poor people," Abdullah said.

The Black Lives Matter Cofounder said the focus needs to be on all Angelenos and that there are priorities other than extra patrols.

"We did do surveys of Angelenos and we got a response rate that was overwhelming. So, in 2020, 25,000 Angelenos responded to our survey and this before the murder of George Floyd. Their highest priority was meeting the universal basic needs of people, their lowest was policing. We saw similar preferences in the 2021 survey," Abdullah said.

The mayoral primary elections will take place in June and in November, a new mayor will be elected.

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