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Lakewood Approves Use of ‘Community Prosecutor’

August 12, 2022

By Tammye McDuff

At their Tuesday meeting, the Lakewood City Council approved an agreement with the County of Los Angeles to provide a Community Prosecutor who will be dedicated to Lakewood and the neighboring city of Paramount focusing on quality of life issues.

Community Prosecutors are part of a contract program that provides cities with a career Deputy District Attorney who has a longstanding relationship with a city’s Special Assignment Deputy Sheriffs to uphold public safety in a community.

Community prosecutors are problem-solvers who focus not merely on individual crimes once committed but on such acts within a context. 

They view individual acts as having a history, potentially a future, and as part of a problem or set of problems within a community. 

Community Prosecutors can take actions such as pursuing “stay away orders” to prevent known gang members or habitual criminals from returning to homes in a neighborhood where they are causing repeated problems. Prosecutors can also do case tracking to advocate for strong-as-possible prosecutions and seek restitution and sentencing terms that are an enhancement to public safety.

The City Council had previously voted  “no confidence” in District Attorney George Gascón, but the Community Prosecutor program predates the existing D.A. In the 1990s, a program was created to address Strategy Against Gang Activity [SAGE]. The program was successful in reducing gang violence. Recently SAGE was renamed Community Prosecutor Program to better reflect the broader array of nuisance activity. 

Lakewood became aware of this program through the city of Paramount. Bellflower had partnered with Paramount for the contracted  Community Prosecutor for several years with good results, but Bellflower left the program. Paramount asked if Lakewood would like to partner on sharing the costs and time for their existing Prosecutor. 

Lakewood staff researched the matter and interviewed the Prosecutor. Lakewood’s cost share for the remaining ten months of the fiscal year will be $125,000. The council will make a decision later on whether to continue the program in the next fiscal year.

 In other news, the city took a proactive stance and began a series of studies of traffic collisions in preparation of creating a local roadway safety plan. The goal is to identify new safety projects based on collision data and field research. Top locations are further analyzed to determine if collision patterns are evident.

The City Council approved the first step in a $2.2 million project to upgrade traffic signals at twelve busy intersections that have seen the most collisions in Lakewood. New traffic signals with more visible lighting and other advanced safety features will be installed in the coming months. Design work on the project will be the first step. This effort builds on other traffic and pedestrian safety actions, including hiring an additional Deputy Sheriff for traffic safety patrol and installing enhanced crosswalk signaling devices.