If you were searching for great, family-friendly places to live in Southern California, chances are, you’re going to find Burbank. The schools, the property value, the weather, the studios…shopping, private government, restaurants and other really great things Burbank is known for.
You’re also going to find many recent headlines touting drive by shootings, drug arrests, stand offs on the freeway, theft, hit and runs, gang-related activity, stabbings, home invasion and murder.
The residents of our beloved city are questioning, “What’s happening to Burbank?”
I’m reading it on social media over and over again. “This isn’t the place it was when I grew up here.” “Has there been a sudden crime increase in our town?” “Is the Burbank Police Department slacking?” “Is this gang-related?” “We plan to leave.”
It’s unavoidable. Both the notice of crime…and the questioning of what’s happening.
If you follow The Burbank PD on Twitter, MyBurbank.com, The Burbank Leader or even ABC7, you’re going to absolutely notice.
If you live in Burbank…you’re surrounded by it. The choppers overhead, the seemingly more frequent sirens…it’s more apparent then ever….we live in a city.
But, really…what’s going on?
As a mother raising her children here and a resident who’s proud to call Burbank home…I made a phone call.
Sergeant Claudio Losacco was born and raised in Burbank. He attended elementary, middle and high school here. He’s also a 17 year veteran of the Burbank Police Department. Currently he’s the department’s Press Information Officer, but has previously worked gangs for a handful of years before his current position.
He’s also a very well spoken representation of our Burbank PD.
I opened our conversation with….”What’s going on in Burbank?”
This question did not come as a shock to him.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as it’s probably being portrayed…that being said, there’s no doubt we’ve had things happen over the past three months or so, that would not make me feel good (as families in city)….social media tends to sensationalize events and helps create hysteria…. it (social media) also presents the ability for information to play into the perception that the city is going in a direction that makes us feel unsafe.”
And you know what, I don’t entirely disagree. Media does heighten our senses…we become hyper-aware of everything, especially the negative. I mean, when’s the last news broadcast you’ve seen that was positive stories from top to bottom. It doesn’t happen.
He continued, “I want to make sure you understand what the facts are, but it’s not with a blind eye, I do understand what you’re feeling.”
But, again, no one is disagreeing that there are things happening that make us all sigh and worry just a bit more than we did the week before.
After our hour long conversation, I hung up the phone a lot more empowered than I did when I called. And I hope we can all feel this way, maybe after reading the rest of this..and maybe taking a few more steps I’ll include at the end.
There are a lot of key factors playing into the ‘uptick in gang activity’ in Burbank. I’m going to list a few of my own insights and then address each. I’ll interlude my interview with Sgt Losacco when applicable.
Here’s the list of factors I can see are affecting the safety of our city:
Lack of community efforts
Lack of funding/cutbacks/retirees
Decrease in police applicants
Lack of parental involvement
…and the one I really, really want to emphasize to the families in Burbank….the lack of SRO’s in our public school systems. School Resource Officers were once present in each of our middle schools and High Schools…and I’m not talking a long time ago. A short time ago, actually. We are now down to one single officer to cover 6 public schools and the private high schools, too.
Coincidental with the crime activity? Maybe not. I’ll explain.
Let’s start with social media. This is our lifeline nowadays. We get all of our news, basically from our Facebook feeds. We hear of the happenings in the city from places like the twitter feed of the BPD, MyBurbank.com, TheBurbankLeader.com and even BurbankMom.com. We have Facebook groups, where, unfortunately I see more complaining and fear mongering than I see support, encouragement and solution seeking ideas.
The media can absolutely sensationalize, especially if we let it.
Sgt Losacco explained “I do all the press releases for the BPD, the good and the bad…the good stuff never gets retweets. Only the bad.”
He continued, “As a matter of fact, property crime is down 10% and our Indexed Crime, Part 1 is down.” (This is crime that affect the quality of life..theft, home invasion, murder, arson, etc…yes, this crime is down)
If you don’t already, I highly suggest you follow the BPD on Twitter…you’ll get it all. The good and the bad, but you’ll be a more informed resident. Along with that, my personal go-to for immediate news, is the MyBurbank.com Twitter feed. Ask my kids…if something is going on, they’ll say ‘did you check Twitter, yet?’
And, please, as a community, let’s really try to use our social media power for good. Praise those who are working hard, make our concerns heard, share valuable information and be connected to one another.
Let’s try not to…gossip, complain, put down our law enforcement and fire department and ridicule each other for having opinions different than our own.
“It takes an entire community to make a positive change.” Sgt Losacco explained to me.
Now, let’s address what we’re all thinking about..gang activity.
“If you ask any community around and they tell you they don’t have a gang problem, they’re lying. They are embedded in our community. Noting the surrounding areas, we have the best handle on gang activity inside Burbank. We live in an urban environment..we’re close to LA..it will come in.” Sgt Losacco stated.
When I asked about an increase in gang activity, He replied,
“We’ve seen an uptick in gang activity over the past few months.
But that ebbs and flows… we need to work together to counteract it. I was a gang detective in 2004-05...(we dealt with) gang related assaults on a daily basis here in Burbank…now, whether people knew or cared, I don’t know? But it was going on at that time…media was different then. And before that, in the 80’s 90’s… there was violent crime that was going on every day…It took a concerted effort to take back neighborhoods.”
And this is where I, personally, think we are now. The ebb and flow as he mentioned…we know which side of the tide we are on.
What about our community? Is there a lack of community effort?
Sgt. Losacco says, “A lot of people don’t want to get involved. I find it hard to believe that no good people in our city would see something and not call police.”
There are some options we have, as a community, to come together to help our police department. Yes…help. First of all, if you see something, say something!
What’s happening it seems, is when the many see trouble, people are leaving and not calling the police, if there is reason to be concerned. Groups of people congregating at a park…fighting breaking out, etc. People, your gut is strong…follow it.
“If people see something…call us..we’re going to go out there.
We will prioritize the calls. It will definitely be in the queue and someone will go check it out. Our average arrival time is less than 15 minutes for non-emergency calls.
some less, some more. Just call.”
Parents, do you have the Burbank Police Department’s number on the home page of your favorites?
No? Add this number in your phone…. 818-238-3000.
Remember, emergency is always 911.
Something else many of us could get involved in, is to start a Neighborhood Watch on your block.
Sgt Losacco says, “They (our department) did one last night.. we’re more than open to them.. I think they’re great, not because of the obvious stuff… but what’s good is we designate a watch captain and you only do a block or two at at time. not large areas, so you’re dealing with 10-15 neighbors. The police communicate with the watch captain and they will share with neighbors..you get to know your neighbors, this is a good thing.
You get their names and phone numbers, you work together. They know when you’re home and hat kind of car you drive. etc. We need to look out for one another more. I think it’s an awesome program. We’ll come to you…to your neighborhood. Engagement is key.”
The Burbank Police Department will help you create a Neighborhood Watch. They can supply you with flyers to pass around. You don’t do this alone. If you are interested in starting a Watch for your area, contact Officer Castro at 818-238-3235
What about graffiti, you ask? Burbank has a graffiti removal program…. we have contractor who cleans graffiti every single business day. (yes…every single day.)
If you see graffiti, you can call or email the city and they put it on the list and the graffiti will be removed within a business day. Keep in mind, this is public property…not in your private residence.
If you see it on the free ways, call 213-897-3656 for Cal Trans.
“The truth is, stats wont matter to the community, if the perception is ‘we don’t feel safe.’” says the Sgt.
A couple weeks ago, there was a stabbing on Buena Vista. Our police department held a meeting for the neighborhood…and only three households showed up. 4 people showed up to this meeting! This is the community involvement I’m speaking of.
Yes, we have police. But, we are the eyes and ears in the community. We simply must be involved.
What is Prop 47?
This was a Prop voted on and approved in the State of California (by us) in 2014 which reduces penalties for some crimes.
What you should know:
The passing of this prop classifies “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” as misdemeanors instead of felonies, unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes.
In my opinion, this has posed some major problems.
“These are the people committing the crimes you’re worried about.
Some of these individuals should be in prison…but they’re getting out quickly. Thefts and drug crimes are decriminalized right now. Users and dealers are not spending any time in jails…and these are the individuals committing the crimes we’re concerned with.”
Before this prop passed, possession of heroin, cocaine…would be a felony and, roughly, a minimum of a weekend in jail. The bail would be around $10,000.
Now, when someone is arrested with drugs, they’re getting maybe a few hours in jail and the bail is $500.”
And these people, popping quickly in and out of jail? …they are the people committing crimes. “And you can bet this is not their first rodeo.” adds Sgt. Losacco.
“This has become increasingly more difficult with the decriminalization of many theft and drug laws and the staffing challenges. Criminals that should be incarcerated or on supervised release are now free and unsupervised, leaving them out and able to commit more crimes.”
What the what?
What you should know:
Realignment AB 109 transfers responsibility for supervising certain kinds of felony offenders and state prison parolees from state prisons and state parole agents to county jails and probation officers.
Realignment AB 109 was enacted against the backdrop of a severely overcrowded California state prison system, but the statute says it was enacted to combat recidivism and not because of overcrowding.
Here’s what else you should know:
Law enforcement officials have criticized the law and, in a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley wrote that realignment poses “a grave threat to public safety.”
Ok, that’s a lot of words. I could barely type it without getting drowsy…Click HERE for more details.
What does this mean for Burbank? (and all towns, really)
In my own words…
Governor Brown enacted this to alleviate the overcrowded prison system in California.
There begins the trickle-down effect. State prisons are then sending prisoners to county level facilities. County level facilities are then, basically, evacuating prisoners who should remain prisoners…into the general public. There is an assumption that they will be in the care of Probation officers. This is proving to not be the case.
Now, we’ve got a great deal more criminals and/or gang members looking to build.
I did ask Sgt. Losacco about this. He says, “The frustrating part for us is we do good work and arrest people for these crimes for what (AB109) considers ‘petty offenses” but they’re’ not to you… these are your homes getting broken into..these are not petty crimes..and the Governor’s bill will say this is a low level offense.
In general, a lot of the crime is committed by these offenders.”
How about a lack of funding, cutbacks and retirees?
It would be impossible for ‘not enough funding and cutbacks’ to leave a program unharmed. The Burbank Police Department is, in fact, short handed. They just are. But it’s not entirely from lack of funding. Burbank is losing many law enforcement officials who’ve been with the department 30 years or more. It’s that time. They’re simply retiring.
And, there aren’t enough funds for certain things like SRO’s….(again, I’ll address this below) and much overtime.
The city of Burbank provides funding. Our City Council approves/denies funding.
Can’t they hire? Yes. They can. As a matter of fact, our BPD is trying very hard to staff a department that accurately reflects our demographics.
The Sgt. says, “It’s our goal to recruit to the demographics of the community.
But it really comes down to this…everyone has to take the same test. They have to take written and physical tests. At the end of the day, we have to give the job to the best candidate.”
This brings us into my next issue...the Lack of Applicants.
Let’s be real. People are not jumping to be police officers these days. Applications are not really pouring in. Police, now, are under extreme scrutiny. It’s not an easy job to have. I have both Police officers and Firemen in my family. Not an easy job.
But, there are also personnel that give good departments bad names.
This all plays a part.
What about parents?
We, as parents need to be in our kids’ lives. Helicopter parents? No. This is not what I’m talking about.
Know who their friends are, know where they are. Have all the passwords to their technology and have access to that technology at all times. Follow through on discipline…easy peasy, right?
I mean, are you prepared and willing to call the cops on your own child if you’re finding drug paraphernalia, graffiti items or weapons?
“I remember once, I went to go make an arrest to a teenager’s house [for graffiti] When I went in his room, I found graffiti material everywhere. I asked his parents if they knew about it…they indicated that it was his personal space, so they didn’t want to go in. I [said to them] that your children have privacy from the government, not their parents,”
Sgt. Losacco added.
Amen to that. Are we perfect? No, absolutely not. But let’s make a pact to be involved and speak up when we see things, either in our own children or others’. Be a mentor. Make a difference to kids who don’t have solid foundations.
Our youth need us.
Which brings me to my last point for today.
School Resource Officers. (SRO’s)
What is an SRO? A School Resource Officer is a full time presence at our schools, both Middle and High. They are there to build relationships with the students.
A short time ago, we had one SRO at each of our middle schools and each of our High Schools. That meant we had 6 full time, available police officers dedicated to each school, including the private schools, when needed.
We now have one.
We have one officer to do the job of 6. How did this happen?
Well, budgeting. The lack thereof.
The details here are murky.
I’m going to be researching further.
This happened when the Burbank USD didn’t meet our City Council halfway to fund it. And somehow we lost almost all of them??
In my opinion, this is huge. Just as huge as any of the other issues I listed here.
“SRO’s on campus have a direct effect on the kids at schools.
They build relationships at schools.” acknowledges Sgt. Losacco.
Think about this..we have criminals and gang members exiting the jail system early. We have gang activity already in our middle and high schools and we eliminate the law enforcement specifically dedicated to helping some of these kids stay out of trouble?
This would be a great question to ask to our city council and BUSD.
Hey, I get it. Nothing is perfect. Nothing.
What about transients and the homeless?
Well, I asked about that too.
“Transients are indeed a source of calls for service to the Police Department. Generally, the crimes are petty theft, public drunkenness and fights/disturbances. Most often the source of the calls are “quality of life issues,” not necessary crime related. Very often an underlying cause related to calls for service with our transient population include mental health underpinnings and/or substance/alcohol abuse.” He said. Continuing,
“Individuals have always come from out of town to commit crime in Burbank. This is nothing new. Our goal has always been to make sure people know that if they choose to come to Burbank and break the law, we will catch them and we will hold them accountable.”
Dealing with homeless instances, Sgt Losacco says, “Either with the use of MHET (Mental Health Evaluation Team) or not, our goal is to stop issues from reoccurring. The challenge is to be able to do that with limited resources and within the law. These folks have a right to be homeless and there are many differing opinions how to best deal with the challenges posed.”
We absolutely need to come together to keep our community safe. All of us.
From the lips of Sergeant Losacco, “With information comes understanding…again, I stress a strong partnership with community is one of the best ways to combat all crime.”
Is Burbank Really A Great Place To Raise A Family?Absolutely!
This is our city. It’s beautiful. It’s full of diversity and language. We’ve got great restaurants, amazing parks, intimate shopping, private government, above average schools, beautiful weather, movie studios, amazing libraries, high property values and stunning neighborhoods…and community.
This is Burbank. And together we do this.
with Mayor Bob Frutos & Cheif of Police, Captain Cremins
Wednesday, February 17th at 10am at Worship Walk Church
located at 3310 W Magnolia Blvd.
You can also join in on Periscope via Lisa Robertson at
@dlandmom LINK HERE….
Please come and ask questions! We’ve got a great Mayor and Chief willing to meet!In case you can’t make that one, you can join in at the Police Commissioners Meeting
that night as well. Wednesday, February 17th 6pm.
*There is opportunity for the public to share in this meeting
And remember…. If you see something, say something!