Wednesday, December 23, 2009



By Diana L. Chapman

Los Angeles police veteran Pat Gannon -- whose family has served the LAPD for combined eight decades plus of service, returned to the Harbor Area this month to take over the reins of the department’s entire southern region.

He will manage 1,500 officers.

Now promoted to deputy chief, Gannon, 54, a San Pedro native whose police career has spanned 31 years, has been noted for his close work with the communities he’s served in part by listening to residents, including the Spanish speaking community, and connecting officers with children.

Gang crime will be one of his top priorities.

Before his departure from the commander post where he last oversaw the city’s homicide investigations, Gannon could proudly tout a drop in murder rate during his tenure. His deep roots to San Pedro, where he was born, however, delighted him with his new promotion. Four generations of Gannons have served the LAPD.

“To be a Deputy Chief and the Commanding Officer of Operations South Bureau is an incredible opportunity for me personally,” Gannon said. “ However, it is a huge responsibility. The area I am responsible for has over 800,000 residents and nearly 1500 sworn police officers working in the area.”

His promotion was lauded by many officials and residents – as he served as captain for the Harbor Region for two years and has a deep understanding of the region. He graduated from San Pedro High in 1973 and later became an LAPD officer. He took the captain’s role in 2000, became a commander in 2006 and climbed to Deputy Chief in 2009.

As soon as Gannon returned to the Harbor Area, he faced residents at a heated public meeting. Residents were riled over the senseless San Pedro shooting death of a 17-year-old boy on a Sunday morning. Geisslar (Michael) Alfaro was killed at Cabrillo Avenue and 18th Street Nov. 22 while walking to the store. Two brothers were arrested, but one was later released.

In particular, San Pedro residents were angered that 44 officers were removed from the Harbor Area and wanted to know if they were receiving their “fair share” of officers from the city.

To ease community concerns, Gannon reported that newly appointed Los Police Chief Charles Beck “has committed to returning officers to the field. An assessment is currently being made to determine where the vacancies are and where officers can be reassigned from,” Gannon explained. “Once that is determined then he will push those officers back to individual police stations like Harbor. I am not sure how many that will be.”

About 130 officers will be returned to patrol assignments, Gannon explained, but the numbers to return to the Harbor Area has not yet been decided.

Gannon has placed gang crime as one of his top priorities and plans, as he has done in the past, to use the help of the community and its local resources to scale down crime.

“I am fortunate that so many great people live in the Harbor Area and South Los Angeles and I believe that when we work together we can make a difference,” Gannon said.

As a prevention to keep kids from crime and gangs, he often had his officers bond with the area youth by playing basketball and other sports with children. He believes officers should connect with youth beyond the doors of the police department.

Reduction of crime, he said, remains high on his priority list.

“ First and foremost is the continued reduction of crime and the fear of crime. Harbor Division has done a very good job this year and … crime has been reduced by 10.5%. This is a tremendous accomplishment. However, there is still too much gang violence in San Pedro. If we can make an impact in this area we would go a long way in reducing the fear of crime.”

In the 1990s – due partly to heavy crack cocaine use – the murder rate reached up to an average mark of about 1,100 in Los Angeles per year. Once New York Police Chief William Bratton took over the LAPD’s top post as chief, the homicide rate dropped to about 365 a year, Gannon said. (Beck recently replaced Bratton.)

When Gannon was named as commander of homicide investigations – using new measures created to reduce gang crime through the gang zrar’s latest measures– the rate again dropped farther to about 304 in 2009.

Serving as sworn Los Angeles officers seems to run in the blood for the Gannon clan.

Gannon followed in the footsteps of his grandfather -- a detective who joined in the force in 1927– and his father who became a sworn officer in 1947. Gannon joined in 1978 later followed by his son, Michael, 27 , who also became an officer in 2005.

“This makes 82 years of service by Gannons to the residents of Los Angeles and I am very proud of that accomplishment,” he said.

Saturday, December 12, 2009



By Diana L. Chapman

I put myself out on a limb when writing about Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn last week and her failure to help the little guy, like me, which probably means you and you and you.

After it ran in City Watch, I sat back and braced for an onslaught of pro-Janice worshipers to write in to spell out how wonderful she is and all she had done for their communities. Zero came in. Nada. Zip. Zilcho!

Perhaps they believe City Watch won’t print what they think. It will. It will. It will. Because I know there are people who like Hahn, I waited and waited and waited – especially from those supporting her bid to run for Lieutenant governor.

Instead, I received many emails from people who too, felt just like me, a sense of betrayal from our councilwoman who seemed to prefer hanging out with the political elite – and first class – than us old boring folks back in coach.

Perhaps we whine too much since we all want to see our communities improve dramatically, which is pretty tough calling when you’re hooked into a gigantic monstrosity like the city of Los Angeles. Many decisions regarding our lives are made 20 miles away and among people who don’t have a clue or care how our region works – or often what we think.

I wrestled with myself over the article endlessly because I wanted to believe that at last someone was there for us in Janice. She’s likeable, articulate – and just about everything you’d want – if she would just stand up for the little guy. Here are what some readers wrote in:

“Reading your CityWatch article about the happenings to the Stakeholders in San Pedro

made me think for a minute I was reading about the happenings to Stakeholders in the northern portion of the Harbor Gateway area of the 15th District. The similarities are astounding,” wrote Lu Watson, a Harbor Gateway resident.

“We (in Harbor Gateway) have had similar experiences with the Councilwoman with the same results as those of you in San Pedro:

(1) A "proposed" 711 store which the community overwhelmingly opposed;

(2) A "proposed" charter school for young children located directly under, near, adjacent to, in front of, by, close to the 110 fwy exit; entrance and overpass; an adult toy store almost directly across the street in front of; and, surrounded by businesses with serious environmental and air-quality issues;

(3) A "proposed" jet fuel pipeline which begins at the port in Wilmington traversing the Harbor Gateway to LAX;

(4) A community of which 85-90% of the residents worked extremely hard to get certain streets closed for safety reasons;

(5) Summarily closing the Harbor Gateway Field Office, causing a hardship

to those of us in the Gateway;

(6) Need I say more?”’

San Pedro resident Guillermo Villagran said his

disappointment with Janice runs deep.
“I don’t have to tell
you about my profound disappointment with her.
She is representative of the myriad hack politicians whose
principal motivation is how they can continue to gorge
themselves at the public trough,” Villagran emailed.
“Cut through the fluff and you see she has done nothing of
significance. Her idea of tackling crime and gang problems
is to waste $5 million hard-earned tax dollars at corrupt
intervention programs… ; or opening a youth center in the
heart of a gang-infested neighborhood with the wishful
thinking that these young people will learn to “get along.

“I will be happy to see Hahn leave CD15 but dread the idea that California voters could be duped into voting for her as Lt. Governor.”

Another City Watch reader and San Pedro resident asked:

How could you not include her fearless and tireless efforts to deal with the dreaded "Reggie the Alligator?” Did she not waste an inordinate amount of time and money to bring this episode to a proper conclusion? If I remember correctly, she left a pretty important meeting to zip off to Harbor Park when the news came in that Reggie was finally caught…In my opinion, she has become one of those politicians you will elect to higher office to get her out of our business,” and up to a “bigger play pen.”

Former Coastal Neighborhood Council member, Kim Stevens, said he’s irritated that Janice’s vision for San Pedro seems to be turning it into Marina del Rey.

“Aside from the "vision thing" about Pedro, my gripe with

Janice is that she is all too willing to pander to folks
for a vote now regardless of the long-run negative costs
to the people,” Stevens said. “In short, a politician without
real principles who thinks only of re-election.”
In all fairness to Janice, none of her predecessors that I

knew could make San Pedro happy either. But that of course,
is the nature of this big beast we deal with on a daily basis,
that controls our lives and prevents us from having our own
identity – Los Angeles.

For those of you who don’t agree, please counter back about

the good things the councilwoman has done for your communities.

Diana can be reached at or visit her blog:

Thursday, December 10, 2009



By Diana L. Chapman

San Pedro High School – one of the 12 Los Angeles public campuses that needs to dramatically improve or it could be passed off to charter control – unveiled a three-pronged approach this week to nurture students in their own smaller, personalized learning campuses, often called houses.

San Pedro educators expect the move to raise grades, test scores and student confidence – a must if school officials want to continue operating the campus and win against four other entities vying to take it over under the district’s new “public choice option.”

At the lightly attended meeting – where more students then parents appeared – several students criticized the report – an action that the principal embraced. She plans to have students aid in the development of the houses.

Jeanette Stevens, who took over the overcrowded school in August, remained optimistic about the proposal – especially after a private staff vote received an overwhelmingly majority to agree to the restructure -- that in the past often met resistance. She vowed to thwart the competitors – one of which is the UTLA, the teacher’s union.

In a surprising outcome, the high school staff voted 98-26 for a block schedule with similar numbers for other parts of the overhaul as “some teachers are stretching out of their comfort zone to make decisions that will help us win this bid for our school,” Stevens said. “Our teachers have stepped up to the plate to compete in this process.

“We are still a little bit nervous, but the energy is high and the ideas are flowing. It’s a great place to be right now,” she added.

Calling the plan a “work in progress,” at Monday’s meeting, she added that the executive summary will move forward to the Los Angeles School board in mid-December due to the upcoming holidays.

While some students – severely jaded by lack of direction of the 3,300 students campus over the past several years– openly criticized the report, few community members or parents showed up at the Monday night meeting.

“I don’t agree with small learning campuses,” said senior Paige Dovolis, president of the school’s Youth and Government program in a later interview. “It separates the school instead of bringing us together. Currently I’m in the business house and it’s not even my choice.”

She later complained – while speaking at the meeting – that the summary was splattered with jargon that neither she, other students or parents could understand.

Another student contended that in her school years if she received money for every time she heard the district was in a severe budget crises, she would have “enough money to fix the budget.”

In the meantime, school officials plan to promote a “safe haven” at the school and add a much more “personalized” atmosphere. The campus accreditation report – which gave the school a poor rating -- criticized the staff for not engaging students and other reports indicated that the staff sometimes lacked respect for its charges.

For the last several years, the campus has battled severe overcrowding, inconsistent leadership and a near loss of its accreditation.

What the new plan includes:

--A block schedule with seven periods to provide for more student bonding with their teachers as well as enhancing “intervention,” for students who need more guidance and providing more opportunities for advanced students. Seventh period will be held every day and one day of the week – which has not been decided yet -- will hold all seven periods.

The remaining six classes will be split into block schedules with odd days including periods 1,3, 5 and 7 and even days classes periods 2,4,6 and 7. With the new sessions, each will run about 100 minutes each.

--Hooking the six houses into “real world experiences,” by using the many resources in the community and bringing professionals into the school or students to the work site to observe. In addition, all students with academic struggles would in essence receive case management to connect them to the additional resources that currently exist in the community.

--In order to draw teachers and students closer, all six houses would have “contiguous” spaces to ensure bonding and enable teachers and staff to work more closely with the youth. For instance, each house would have its own counseling office, own eating area and the classrooms would be kept close to each other – so students will no longer have to criss-cross the large school to get to classes.

San Pedro’s overhaul stems from the school board’s decision to allow 24 new schools and 12 beleaguered public campuses go out to bid to charters and other non-profit entities. Board members believed the competition would launch major improvements within the ailing district, which currently has a near 50 percent dropout rate.

Los Angeles School Superintendent Ramon Cortines has the final say which agencies – including charters and non-profits -- will win the bids.

According the summary, San Pedro has a rich cultural diversity combined with poverty. Nearly half the students are on the free lunch program and 19 percent are gifted, according to the report. The attendance rate remains about the 91 percent mark, but nearly 33 percent of the students drop out.

Only 12.7 percent of the students, however, are proficient “and advanced in mathematics, mimicking a devastating trend across the state of California,” the report said.

Monday, December 07, 2009


By Diana L. Chapman

They didn’t rescue someone from a burning house or pull them out of a car wreck. They aren’t cops or firefighters. They are, however, my latest local heroes in San Pedro.

They did it simply by this -- speaking out when no one else did and arranging one of the first public meetings in my memory about the shooting deaths of children in our community.

As someone who has tracked the yearly violent deaths of children here, I feared that once again the brazen Sunday morning shooting of 17-year-old Geisslar “Michael” Alfaro last month would slip into the same ugly abyss along with the other murdered children in this community.

It seems we -- as a community -- have come to tolerate that at least one youth annually is shot down in our streets – often in the light of the day -- and as the deaths seem to pile up; they are quickly forgotten. The media fails to show up. Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn doesn’t appear to demand change. And our residents failed to make a scene – until now.

Central Neighborhood Council President John Delgado and Vice President, Andrew Silber, scheduled an emergency public meeting on Alfaro’s shooting and plan to demand more officers from the city of Los Angeles Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Croatian Cultural Center, 510 W. SeventhStreet.

Calling Alfaro’s shooting “disgusting,” an angry Silber, owner of the Whale & Ale Restaurant, said he’s irritated that San Pedro has lost scores of officers to other areas – and now wants “to make sure we are getting our fair share.”

“It strikes me as all of this is just acceptable,” said Silber. “Well, I’m not going to turn over and accept this. We are supposed to be living in a civilized society. A law abiding citizen has the right to walk the street. He (Alfaro) was walking on foot when he was injured and they finished him off with a bullet between a high school and middle school.

"Why has San Pedro lost 44 officers in the last 18 months?”

Alfaro was killed Nov. 22, on a sunny Sunday morning, while on an errand to buy some goods at a local store, his friends and family said. An argument erupted in an alley where two men, both brothers, chased Alfaro and shot him down near Cabrillo Avenue and 18th Streets. The two men were later arrested and one was released. Police called Alfaro's death senseless and unrelated to anything he had done. Alfaro was not a gang member, officers said.

In the meantime, his blood still stains the street.

“I was hurt when I heard about the shooting,” said Central Neighborhood Council President John Delgado. “I’m very saddened for the family and the child. It just looks like this kid was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s terrible that we have this going on and there seems no solution.

“We want to be there to let the family know that it’s not in vain. Our goal is to get more police officers.”

I applaud that these two men for caring and being some of the first residents to start asking serious questions. Sitting in the living room with Alfaro's family and friends -- still stunned by his death -- was so painful for me and I knew I couldn't even begin to understand their agony. The boy they described had befriended just about everyone, from nerds to gang members, and was nicknamed “Batman” after his favorite super hero.

His closest friends and family members described Alfaro as a kid who would dance anywhere any time – with or without music – and who loved to play with younger children. His motto in life was: "Be a happy camper." In particular, he teased everyone that babies liked him more than anyone else – and was already planning his future with longtime girlfriend, Kenya Broadnax. Many women, including Kenya's mother, considered Alfaro like their own son.

Alfaro had dated Kenya, 18, for five years and they planned to marry and have children once the two graduated from an independent studies high school program.

An unpublished car wash attracted hundreds of people and raised more than $5,000 in two days to pay for Alfaro’s funeral services – where again – residents flowed in from all over San Pedro. Some people had to stand at the funeral, friends said.

Unfortunately, the day before Thanksgiving, while these family members should have been whipping up mashed potatoes and preparing pumpkin pie -- instead they sat stoically in a small apartment clustered together in a protective circle and trying to cope with this tragic loss of a young man. Nothing can wash away the amount of despair and the ripples this kid’s death will have on the hundreds who knew him. As the family struggled not to cry, so did I.

But perhaps, I have to say, we should all be crying. Many of us probably think, this won’t happen to our own kid or a kid we know. Then we should remind ourselves where Alfaro was shot to death – an area trekked everyday by hundreds of students pouring in and out of Dana Middle and San Pedro High schools

I've heard time and time again from officers how lucky we are compared to other areas of Los Angeles. San Pedro has less crime and fewer murders.

That may be so. But it also means we don't want to catch up to those areas either. We must take a stance.