As a series of shootings has continued in parts of Pasadena, Pasadena Police Chief John Perez said at an online District 5 Town Hall meeting Thursday that police “are following up on every lead possible” to find the shooter in last Sunday’s gunfire, which left a 10-year-old boy severely wounded.
Speaking from outside the Villa Parke Community Center, Perez said his department has mounted increased patrols by car and foot to stop the shootings.
“We have more people assigned to patrol today than ever before,” he said.
Perez was joined by Mayor Victor Gordo and newly appointed District 5 Councilmember Jessica Rivas, and also by Pasadena Public Health Officer Dr. Ying-Ying Goh and Department of Human Services and Recreation Director Brenda Harvey-Williams.
Gordo spoke briefly, saying that local park officials are is “doing all that they can in order to avoid more incidents such as the horrific incident that we saw this past weekend. You can have confidence that your police department and the staff at these community centers are doing all they can to avoid any more incidents.”
Chief Perez, who said he was limited in what he could reveal about any ongoing investigations, said, “We are on this 24 hours a day right now to find these suspects.”
Perez addressed both the difficulty of modern police investigations and the recent adaptation of police to community demands to “defund” the department.
“Last year,” said Perez, referring to a summer-long wave of weekly Black Lives Matter demonstrations, “we saw people not wanting the police to do what we do. We talked about defunding, and not doing certain types of policing in our communities.
“We eliminated the gang unit,” said Perez. “Not because we’re not doing gang work, but because we’re redeveloping how we’re doing it.”
Taking a longer view, Perez said, “These shootings have not stopped in my 35 years. Why? These are about socioeconomic issues. We have an area that’s hit by poverty, hit by the recession, hit by everything that’s going on.
“We know that people are worried and scared,” he continued. “And then we have young people that are getting out of jail sooner. There’s not a lot of people going to jail for possession of handguns or any other type of crime right now. We’re doing our best to rebuild the system.”
Perez also acknowledged that he felt that the police department “let the community down” with regard to the most recent shooting.
“We feel that we weren’t there,” he said. “The night of the shooting we wanted to be there. We were there within two minutes of the shooting, but that wasn’t quick enough, again, recovering 50 guns this year demonstrates how many other incidents we’d likely stop.
Taking questions from community members, the Chief was asked, “Law enforcement presence has increased in the neighborhood. Why can’t it stay at this level? It’s always in the parks, in surrounding neighborhoods.”
Perez responded, “Over the last a year, we have put a lot of units into different neighborhoods. We have more people assigned to patrol today than ever before.”
But Perez noted that police recruiting is “an issue.”
“We have to make sure we’re able to hire quickly,” he explained. “ For every 100, 150 people who apply, we hire one for the police academy and it takes us a year, to a year and a half, to get them out. So we do need support at the rate in which we hire and maintain our police officers.”
Perez also pointed to the new police presence at the farmer’s market, and the establishing of a mobile command post in Northwest Pasadena.
“You have seen officers on foot in this general area alone,” he said. “We’ve been out about 500, 600 times this year alone. It’s never enough. There’s never enough for us to be out here as often as we can be.”
“Well, we make that commitment,” he stressed. “You’ve seen us here more lately with the command post and the shooting that happened, but we need to maintain this presence. Long-term, and not just here, but in other neighborhoods around the city.”
Pasadena Public Health Director Ying-Ying Goh and Department of Human Services and Recreation Director Brenda Harvey-Williams, also spoke at the meeting, with Dr. Goh carefully highlighting the recent dramatic drop in Coronavirus cases.
“We’re still at a fairly high level,” said Goh, “but I anticipate as long as we continue to do the things that we’re doing, which is not gathering, wearing high-quality face coverings, and following all the orders and the precautions, that we will, hopefully, we’ll continue to see this decrease.”
Goh also stated that the Health Department is progressing with opening K-6 school classrooms, and having outdoor dining operational again.
Harvey-Williams once again reminded the viewers of the availability of park programs throughout the City. She also said that facilities at Villa Parke were due to be upgraded, including the installation of security cameras.
Following the online town hall, Mayor Gordo and newly appointed District 5 Council Member Jessica Rivas issued a statement saying “the police department has increased its presence and are working tirelessly to identify the individuals responsible. We, along with our fellow council members, City management and the police department, are dedicated to providing the resources necessary to curtail this violence and ensure community members feel safe using our parks, walking our streets and engaging in all other recreational activities.”
“The City Council has previously established a reward fund to assist with these types of incidents. At the appropriate time, we ask the Chief of Police to utilize that fund.”
According to Pasadena Police Lt. Bill Grisafe, “City officials are currently in active discussion over some type of reward specially related to the weekend shooting in December which claimed two.”
The statement added, “If you have any information about the recent shooting or prior incidents of violence, please call(626) 744-4241. If you’d prefer to provide information anonymously, contact Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477or submit a tip through their website, lacrimestoppers.org.