City Provides Safe Place to Close Online Deals

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

BELL GARDENS – With more people flocking to the Internet to buy or sell their things to strangers, the city of Bell Gardens is now offering a safe location to close the deal on those online transactions.

Over the last few years, some transactions have ended in theft and even murder. Two years ago in nearby Montebello, a man selling a $2,000 necklace on the site OfferUp, was fatally shot by a potential buyer who ended up trying to steal the piece of jewelry.

A safe meetup spot for internet purchase exchanges is now located outside the Bell Gardens Police Department lobby. (City of Bell Gardens)

A safe meetup spot for internet purchase exchanges is now located outside the Bell Gardens Police Department lobby. (City of Bell Gardens)

Bell Gardens Police Chief Robert E. Barnes said the department wanted to provide a safe place for the exchange of cash and goods and noted that crime tends to decrease in the presence of law enforcement. The Internet purchase exchange location, is now located outside the Bell Gardens Police Department lobby and will be well lit and feature security cameras that record 24-hours daily.

“It is my hope that by providing this service to our community, residents will utilize it and feel safe performing their legal Internet transactions outside our lobby,” the chief said in press release announcing the secure zone.

The department has partnered with OfferUp, which now encourages its buyers and sellers to use safe locations like the Bell Gardens site.

“Our ability to partner with the Bell Gardens Police Department allows us to bring a collective and focused effort and investment to the well-being of this community by improving the security of in-person transactions,” said Natalie Angelillo, VP of Community at OfferUp.

The Bell Gardens Police Department is located at 7100 Garfield Ave. Residents can also conduct transactions inside the lobby during regular business hours.

 

Bell Gardens PD Offers Drug Prevention Workshop

January 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A free workshop for Bell Gardens parents concerned about their children experimenting with drugs will be held Jan. 17, amid growing concerns of drug abuse in the city.

The Bell Gardens Police Department in partnership with the Recreation and Community Services Department and Bell Gardens High School’s Regional Occupation Program will host the workshop, “Drugs and Kids: What Parents Need to Know.”

The event will take place from 6 to 8p.m. at the Veterans Park Senior Center – located at 6662 Loveland St. Narconon Drug Prevention and Education, Inc. in conjunction with Fresh Start – a drug rehabilitation and prevention program – will provide the presentation. Staff from the city, police department and Montebello Unified School District will be available to answer questions.

For more info, contact Detective John Acosta at (562) 806-7649.

Bell Gardens PD Safely Destroys Firearms

December 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

More than 80 firearms from closed criminal cases and voluntary turn-ins were destroyed last month by the Bell Gardens Police Department.

Approximately 85 handguns and rifles were dismantled Nov. 14 and separated into recyclable and non-recyclable parts that were transported to an off-site location and melted down or sold to an authorized vendor.

Pictured: Bell Gardens Police personnel dismantle guns and rifles for safe disposal. (City of Bell Gardens)

Pictured: Bell Gardens Police personnel dismantle guns and rifles for safe disposal. (City of Bell Gardens)

Although most of the weapons were collected as evidence in cases of robberies and assault with deadly weapons, some of the handguns and rifles were collected after residents voluntarily turned them in for safe disposal.

“The completion of this project ensures that these dangerous weapons are never again used to harm residents of this or any other community,” said Bell Gardens Police Chief Robert Barnes.

 

City Moves Ahead On ‘Pot’ Enforcement

August 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

BELL GARDENS – Faced with the possibility of losing its authority to regulate the growth and delivery of medical marijuana in the city, Bell Gardens officials have adopted a series of measures that explicitly prohibited all commercial medical cannabis activity in the city.

Their actions come in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of the Medical Regulation and Safety Act, a state-licensing program for dispensaries. Coming nearly 20 years after medical marijuana was first legalized in California, the three-pronged bill aims to clarify gray areas in the legislation that allowed “pot shops” and commercial medical marijuana activities to continue unregulated.

The Act requires cities like Bell Gardens to adopt ordinances or zoning laws to regulate medical marijuana operations within their borders, or risk the state becoming the final arbiter of the medical marijuana industry in the city.

“It was either act now, otherwise the state will decide,” explained Abel Avalos, Bell Gardens’ Director of Community Development.

Avalos told EGP the city decided to tighten its existing zoning codes in direct response to the state’s March deadline, but added that the changes also give Bell Gardens new tools to regulate the delivery and growing of marijuana in the city, activities that have popped up in greater frequency recently despite the city’s 2007 banning of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Illegal use of marijuana is an issue for the city, says Councilwoman Jennifer Rodriguez, pointing out the difficulty of enforcing laws prohibiting its use in public.

“Everywhere you go you can smell it,” she told EGP in frustration. “You can smell it at the gym, while you drive; there’s just no control.”

In November, voters will decide whether to approved the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” which would legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults 21 years and older, and tax the commercial growth and retail sale of nonmedical cannabis.

The current Medical Regulation and Safety Act only allows cities to ban nonmedical marijuana businesses and to prohibit businesses that also sell alcohol and tobacco to also sell medical marijuana. But according to Rodriguez, the measure fails to adequately deal with enforcement-related issues.

“What good are these laws if it’s difficult to enforce them?” she asks.

According to Bell Gardens Police Detective Sgt. Troy Henshaw, the department regularly receives calls complaining of people, often juveniles, smoking or using marijuana in public. The complaint sometimes comes from someone standing near the offender, other times it comes from a motorist driving behind a vehicle emitting a noticeable smoke and smell, he explained.

“Some of the calls result in no one being located and others have resulted in citations and arrests,” Sgt. Henshaw told EGP. “I would not say it is a big problem in public parks or spaces, but we do receive calls about it.”

Police must evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis to determine if a suspect’s possession of marijuana is legal, looking at such things as whether the person has a medical marijuana prescription card allowing them to be in legal possession of the substance. If not, the officer must make a decision as to how severe charges should be, which is often determined by the amount of illegal marijuana the person’s possession.

“Each situation is different, but if an individual is found to be violating a marijuana law…he or she can be issued a citation, arrested for a misdemeanor offense or for a felony offense and the marijuana is confiscated,” explained Sgt. Henshaw.

Since 2011, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is just an infraction with a maximum $100 fine and no criminal record, decriminalizing the offense as part of an effort to reduce the financial burden on the courts for prosecuting the charges.

In other words, “you get caught smoking, get a ticket and sent on your merry way,” complains Rodriguez.

The enforcement of the medical marijuana industry has proved difficult for many local cities. Illegal and unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries have long been a problem in the city of Los Angeles, with new facilities continuing to pop up despite voter approval of Proposition D, a measure that limits the number of dispensaries allowed to operate to no more than 135. The Office of L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, which at one time estimated the number of unlawful dispensaries in the city to be more than 800, has an ongoing effort to shut down the illegal facilities in what many have described as a constant game of “whack-a-mole.”

While the problem has not been no where near as bad in Bell Gardens, three medical marijuana dispensaries did illegally open along Eastern Avenue, near the city’s downtown commercial corridor.

In “plain sight,” but unbeknownst to the city, the businesses were quickly shut down once they were discovered, Avalos told EGP.

“No known dispensaries currently operate within Bell Gardens,” assured Sgt. Henshaw.

But the legalization of marijuana could bring new and bigger issues, points out Rodriguez.

She believes legalizing marijuana for recreational use will shift the burden of regulation onto municipalities like Bell Gardens, not to mention the issues of enforcement and the financial and societal consequences of marijuana-related crimes and accidents, problems she feels have surged since medical marijuana was legalized.

“This is just the beginning, it’s just starting and soon we may not be able to do anything about it.”

Coming Together at National Night Out

August 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Dozens of block parties were held across the Southland Tuesday night, drawing thousands of residents to join with local police officers, sheriff’s deputies and elected officials as part of the annual National Night Out crime-prevention event.

As many as 38 million people across the country were expected to take part in National Night Out activities, which annually takes place on the first Tuesday in August. Chief among its goals is to promote a partnership between the police and the community, which this year has been under greater strain due to some controversial police-involved-shootings and the ambush-style deadly assaults on police officers in recent weeks.

In Boyle Heights, the National Night observance included a peace march denouncing crime and violence.

LAPD National Night Out Santiago

(Office of Assemblymember Miguel Santiago)

Some cities, like Commerce, hosted BBQ-style block parties while other cities like Bell Gardens and Montebello held larger events at local parks that featured demonstrations from K-9 units, information booths and displays of public safety vehicles, to the delight of many children.

Started in 1984, National Night Out is billed as “America’s night out against crime.” It is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch and co-sponsored by local municipalities and law enforcement agencies nationwide.

(City of Bell Gardens)

(City of Bell Gardens)

The event initially began as a call for people to hold small public gatherings in a take-back-the-streets show of community pride.

Over the years, the event has grown to include block parties, parades, movie screenings and picnics.

(City of Commerce)

(City of Commerce)

During the event, residents are encouraged to lock their doors, turn on their front house lights and join with neighbors, law enforcement and Neighborhood Watch leaders at local neighborhood events. Activities vary by event but generally include free food, police and fire displays, live entertainment and a chance to interact with city officials and local police officers.

Information from City news Service used in this report.

 

Armed Robbery Suspect Leads Bell Gardens Police On Wild Chase

July 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

An armed robbery in Bell Gardens Thursday morning ended with one suspect in custody and at least one other still on the loose, after an hour long chase and officer involved shooting that continued into neighboring Downey.

After receiving multiple 9-1-1 calls, Bell Gardens police officers at around 10:47 a.m. responded to an armed robbery in progress at the Verizon Wireless Store located at 7220 Eastern Ave. Workers and customers were held at gunpoint by at least two men before the suspects made off with a significant amount of merchandise, Capt. Scott Fairfield told EGP.

One of the suspects, identified as 25-year-old Dillan Wilson, fled and a pursuit ensued when officers located his vehicle and attempted a traffic stop. At one point the suspect’s vehicle – a black Saturn SUV – struck two occupied vehicles at the intersection of Garfield and Gage Avenue, police said.

One of the lead police vehicles involved in the pursuit early on overheated and caught fire.

The chase continued into the city of Downey where at one point Wilson turned onto Denvers Street, a dead end. The suspect then threw his car into reverse, ramming two police cars as officers attempted to exit their vehicles, BG police said.

According to police,  Wilson allegedly drove towards an officer standing nearby prompting a second officer to fire multiple shots at the vehicle in an attempt to stop the suspect. The chase continued  onto Bluff Road, another dead-end, at which time the suspect jumped out of the car and fled on foot into the nearby Rio Hondo River.

Wilson was taken into custody following a short foot pursuit, police said.

At the time of the arrest Wilson was bleeding from his head and arm and was treated on scene by paramedics before being cleared for booking. It is unclear whether Wilson suffered injuries caused by a grazed bullet during the gunfire or from shattered glass. No officers were hurt.

A handgun reported stolen from Whittier was recovered from the suspect’s vehicle. Wilson is facing charges of armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, felony evading, hit and run and a possession of a stolen handgun, according to Fairfield.

Police are still searching for the other suspect or suspects involved in the armed robbery. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Bell Gardens Police Department.

The Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is investigating the officer-involved shooting.

Mentally Disabled Man Located

April 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A mentally disabled 18-year-old man was located safe after he went missing while on a school field trip in Bell Gardens today.

Victor Delgado had last been seen about 11:25 a.m. in a shopping center at 5800 E. Florence Ave. that includes a Ross Dress for Less store, according to Bell Gardens police.

Someone who saw news reports about the case spotted Delgado in Hawaiian Gardens and called sheriff’s deputies, police said.

It’s unclear how he made his way to Hawaiian Gardens.

Two Killed in South Gate Hit-and-Run

March 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The coroner’s office Sunday released the names of two people killed in a two-vehicle hit-and-run crash in South Gate that injured five other people, three of them critically.

They were Angie Ruiz, 15, and Lester Larios, 55, both from Bell, said coroner’s Capt. John Kadus.

The crash was reported at 4:27 p.m. Saturday on Garfield Avenue near El Paseo Street, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Cheryl Sims.

One of the vehicles careened into a pole, Sims said.

The injured, including two people who were not seriously hurt, were taken to hospitals for treatment, she said.

Investigators were seeking 22-year-old Bryan Rojas, who was last seen with an injury to his forehead that he sustained in the crash, according to a bulletin issued by Bell Gardens police.

Rojas was described as Hispanic, 5 feet-10 inches tall, 180 pounds with brown eyes, black hair and acne and a beard.

Anyone with information about the crash or Rojas’ whereabouts was urged to call South Gate police at (323) 563-5400.

Police is looking for Bryan Rojas, 22. (South Gate police)

Police is looking for Bryan Rojas, 22. (South Gate police)

Man Fatally Shot in Bell Gardens

February 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A man was shot to death on a street in Bell Gardens this morning, authorities said.

The shooting in the 6300 block of Specht Avenue took place about 12:05 a.m. Tuesday, said sheriff’s Deputy Tony Moore.

The victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Moore added. His name was withheld pending the notification of next of kin.

A motive for this killing was unknown. The sheriff’s department was assisting the Bell Gardens police in the investigation, Moore said.

The shooter remained at large. No suspect information was immediately available.

Anyone with information on this homicide was asked to call the sheriff’s homicide bureau at (323) 890-5500. All tips can be submitted anonymously.

Bell Gardens Barricade Ends In Arrest

July 9, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

An alleged gang member wanted for attempted murder in a shooting that left two people in Bell Gardens wounded last week was arrested Monday following a five-hour long standoff with police.

Jose Navarro, 31, was set to appear in court Wednesday for arraignment facing a total of four felony charges. He is being charged with two counts of attempted murder, one count for shooting from a motored vehicle and one count for possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon, according to the Los Angeles County District’s Attorney’s office. It is not clear if Navarro will face additional charges in relation to the barricade.

Lea este artículo en Español: Hombre Atrincherado en Bell Gardens es Arrestado

At about 4 a.m. Monday, Bell Gardens police were serving an arrest warrant on Navarro when he barricaded himself in his home on the 6000 block of Live Oak Avenue, according to Bell Gardens Police Sgt. Dennis Timmons. When the suspect refused to exit the home, the County Sheriff Department’s Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) — often referred to as SWAT — was called in, said Timmons. Several people in the home at the time exited, but a child who was possibly related to the suspect remained inside, according to police.

Bell Gardens Police closed off streets near the 6000 block of Live Oak Avenue where a previously convicted felon barricaded himself.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Bell Gardens Police closed off streets near the 6000 block of Live Oak Avenue where a previously convicted felon barricaded himself. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

 

A neighbor said she woke to the sound of a helicopter circling overhead and a loud voice ordering Navarro to surrender.

“I realized how dangerous the situation was when I saw a large SWAT vehicle parked near my window,” said the woman who asked that her named not be used.

According to police, Navarro allegedly shot and injured two men early in the morning July 1 as they stood on the 5800 block of Quinn Street, not far from where Navarro was barricaded. The two men are in stable condition, police said.

Three hours into the standoff Monday, around 7 a.m., the 11-year-old boy still inside the house with Navarro emerged and was immediately escorted from the scene by SWAT officers. The child had answered a phone call made to the residence before walking to safety, Timmons said.

A little after 9 a.m., SWAT launched tear gas into the home, forcing the suspect to come outside, where he was taken down by K9 dogs, said police. Navarro was taken into custody and treated for injuries sustained from the dog bites, according to Bell Gardens Police Sgt. Paul Camacho.

It was not clear whether weapons were located at the residence following the barricade.

As is often the case in these types of situations, neighbors were shocked by the incident in their neighborhood.

“They seemed like very calm people,” the female neighbor told EGP. “I had never seen anything chaotic on this block.”

But according to other neighbors, there had been rumors of drug activity at the home on Live Oak Street.

Navarro is being held on $2 million bail. His next court date is July 29.

—-

Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

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