The held its annual Awards & Installation Reception Thursday night, which took place this year in the Starview Room of the Universal Sheraton hotel near Universal City.
Aside from installing its 2012 Board of Directors, the chamber also honored NBC Universal and a number of other community organizations and chamber members, including Vic Viereck, the chamber's outgoing president, past board member Gary Justice, the , Woodbury University, the and the Federal Bar, which received the Shining Star Award.
The Los Angeles Fire Department's Fire Station #60 also received an honor, as did Los Angeles Police Department Senior Lead Officer John Catalono, who patrols the NoHo Arts District. (Special thanks to Coy G. Koehler at www.WhyCoy.com for providing the photo attached to this story.)
Few things help the business community more than falling crime rates, so North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch took the opportunity to speak to Catalano about the reduced crime rates the North Hollywood area is currently experiencing. Crime in 2011 in Los Angeles and North Hollywood in many key categories, giving the city the lowest per-capita rate since 1952.
Here is the conversation we had with Officer Catalano, edited slightly for content and clarity:
PATCH: How long have you been the Senior Lead Officer for the NoHo Arts District, and how long have you been with the LAPD?
CATALANO: I've been a senior lead officer for about 10 years, most of the time in the NoHo Arts District, and I've been with the LAPD a little over 16 years.
PATCH: Few places in the Valley have changed as much over the last 10 years as the Arts District, with all the development that has been going on there. For a police standpoint, how have things changed?
CATALANO: Ten, 15 years ago were responding to about 25-plus murders in the North Hollywood area. Now, we're down to I think two murders so far this year. Violent crime is down drastically. Property crime is still an issue in the NoHo Arts area. Our biggest issue is probably car break-ins, people leaving things visible in their car.
PATCH: A couple months ago Captain Whittingham (of the North Hollywood Division) issued a statement saying that you guys were seeing an increase in crime around the Red Line, and that criminals were using the Red Line as a quick escape route. What's the situation with that now?
CATALANO: We definitely see some crime coming in and out of the Red Line and Orange line, it's well documented. We work very closely with the L.A. County Sheriffs. If you went by there today you probably saw 45 sheriffs.
PATCH: I was going to ask you about that. On my way here my ad manager called and said there were dozens of cops and sheriffs near the NoHo Commons, what happened?
CATALANO: Nothing happened at all. It was just the police working with the community, a joint task force, for lack of a better word, trying to make it visible to the people that are trying to come into the North Hollywood area through the Orange and Red Line and trying to commit crime. We want to eliminate the loitering in that area, the narcotics sales in the area, the car break-ins in the area. We have to work together.
PATCH: So is that what it was, a show of force, basically?
CATALANO: It is a new task force project that we're going to be working on for the next couple of months, saturating the area with undercover officers in an effort to reduce the crime. Even though crime is down, we still have a lot of quality of life issues in addition to crimes and we are working hard to try and reduce or eliminate them.
PATCH: Crime is down. It seems to go down, down, down, down again. It's down this year from last year. It's quite astonishing. Can you talk a little about the types of policies the LAPD has implemented in order to achieve this.
CATALANO: I think the biggest thing is the relationship that we have with the community as well as the business owners around here. Around here, the majority of the business owners know me by first name, and I know them by first name. That kind of friendship and relationship helps us retain the information we need that we need to reduce the crime or prosecute the crime.
PATCH: Over the summer there was an in the Arts District, then you said you made a few arrests that had made a big impact on the problem. How is it now?
CATALANO: Back then, we had a huge increase in bike thefts. We made an arrest, it brought the numbers back down, then it went back up. It goes in spurts, just like anything else. A lot of times what we are seeing is a small group of individuals responsible for a large number of those types of crimes. We make an arrest and the numbers go down drastically. If they get out of jail, sometimes we know who to go looking for in the same area. It doesn't take a genius.
PATCH: Crime keeps falling. There's a question of how far can it go? What's the future look like for the NoHo Arts District?
CATALANO: We've got a lot of new developments still coming, as well as the Red Line bringing I think it is 26,000 people into the area on a daily basis. We're not growing as a police force because of budgetary reasons, however, we are still doing an amazing job keeping crime low. It's about working with the community and the residents. A lot of the people around us also have private security that we work with. The guys on bikes, the BID Officers, the private security in the apartment buildings. So even through we are still about the same numbers as a police department, and especially the force in the arts area, we just have a ton of support, and I think that's a tribute to the relationships that we have established over the years in the community.