With just one homicide this year, and fewer crimes in 2011 than were reported during each of the last five years, the city can say it has one of the lowest crime rates in almost two decades, according to Lilli Hadsell, chief of the Baldwin Park Police Department.
Hadsell, who has been in charge of the police force since 2008, talked with Patch about a wide range of issues, including the department's budget, gangs, non-revocable parolees, vehicle impounding and police relations with the Latino community.
Baldwin Park Patch: What is the situation with the police department and its budget? Are there any cuts?
Hadsell: As far as the budget goes, we have made some cuts, but it is something not drastic and has not affected our humanpower. We still have the officers required on the streets and the equipment we need; we are going to be OK.
We have been funded for 77 sworn officers. However, because of injuries and difficulties doing new hiring, right now we have 66. That doesn't include civil [positions], which are 32. We have a budget of about $17 million.
Baldwin Park Patch: Crime is down almost everywhere. How is the crime rate in Baldwin Park?
Hadsell: Our situation here is just the same as everywhere. Crime has been coming down. Last year we experienced one of the lowest crime rates we had in almost 20 years with just two homicides. This year we only have one.
As far as violent crime is concerned, it is going down. However, there are going to be shootings, for example, the situation at the AA [Alcoholic Anonymous meeting]. Things like that keep on happening, but those are things police don't control.
We concentrate on gangs, on the criminals out of the streets—those are the ones we arrest, those are the ones who make an impact in crime.
Baldwin Park Patch: So there is a gang situation in the city?
Hadsell: We do have gangs in Baldwin Park. We have a couple of established homegrown gangs here. Things used to be worse 20 years ago. While we have a gang issue, we are trying to keep it under control.
The other thing is that it is not just gang members here in BP. We need to remember we have people that come from outside. The L.A. Crips [gang] comes to Baldwin Park, El Monte Flores comes to town and they both bring crime. We also have Azusa 13 that comes and brings crime. It is not only our local members.
Baldwin Park Patch: There will be some inmates transferred to the counties who may be released to the streets as nonrevocable parolees. (These are parolees who are released without supervision or conditions.) How many are coming here? What are you doing to address this issue?
Hadsell: We are working very closely with [state] parole and with the Sheriff Department. At this point, we got a few nonrevocable parolees who came back to Baldwin Park. I haven't seen any increase in crime because of that yet, but we are keeping really open eyes on it.
Baldwin Park Patch: A year ago, the impounding of vehicles from unlicensed drivers was controversial. What is the situation right now? What is the policy?
Hadsell: Our policy has always been...to follow state law. And the state mandates if somebody doesn’t have a license, you impound the vehicle [and] it has to be for 30 days. Now we changed that policy a little bit. What we do now is we still impound the vehicle but we only impound it for one day, until the person comes back with somebody who has a [driver's] license and they can take the vehicle.
We have to enforce the law, and the law is that you have to have a license to drive. While we understand that people need to get to work, to go to schools, to pick up their children, etc., we need to protect the whole community.
Baldwin Park Patch: How is the relation between the Baldwin Park police and the Latino community? Is there a disconnect? Or is it good?
Hadsell: That is a really good question. One of the things I strive for is to get more officers who speak Spanish. I speak Spanish, ‘yo soy peruana y yo hablo el español,’ [I am Peruvian and I speak Spanish].
I try to hire people who look like the community and speak like this community, and I think we are doing fine. Now you call the police, and you have officers who speak Spanish and speak at your level.
With the different programs we have, we are gaining their trust. I think more people are coming forward to us. It is a slow process, but I think we are doing OK.