Villanueva town hall: Law enforcement stands with victims of crime

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva wants the public to know that law enforcement stands with victims of crime, urging them to pay attention to trends and patterns to help with crime prevention, he said Monday. 

The sheriff held a virtual town hall with multiple experts who often deal with victims of crime, including victim rights advocates, Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau officials and Jon Hatami, a Santa Clarita resident and deputy district attorney for the Family Violence Division, Complex Child Abuse Section. 

“There’s been so much information tossed around, there’s so much fear and anxiety in the community,” said Villanueva. “I just want to let people know where law enforcement stands as a whole, as a profession in our relationship with victims that we encounter just by the sheer nature of what we do. We come across people during the worst time in their entire life, unfortunately. We’re going to be there with them.” 

Before offering resources, the sheriff presented a quick breakdown of countywide violent crime statistics from 2020: 

  • A 36% increase in criminal homicide. 
  • A 22% increase in assault with deadly weapon-related crimes. 
  • A 114% increase in criminal homicides this year when compared to this time in 2020. 
  • A 25% increase in aggravated assaults so far when compared to this time last year. 

“Our work is cut out for us,” said Villanueva. 

What do to if you’re a victim

If you’re a victim of any crime, officials and advocates suggested reaching out to one’s nearest sheriff’s station or police department. 

“Make sure you know who your local law enforcement agency is,” said Villanueva. “If you’re in an unincorporated area of the county, that would be us, and if it’s a city that has contracts with us, it would be us or the 46 independent police departments throughout L.A. County.” 

The town hall came after the sheriff announced in early February Sheriff’s Department officials would attend parole hearings in the absence of prosecutors who are replaced with victim advocates under District Attorney George Gascón’s administration, which says they are better suited to support victims during parole hearings. 

Hatami, who has filed a defamation and racial discrimination lawsuit against Gascón, reiterated the importance of educating oneself about laws and that they must be followed. 

“Everybody needs to follow the law, including the D.A., including me, including the sheriff,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get to a point where we do file special circumstances, we do look at each case on a case-by-case basis, analyze the facts of each case, and then we utilize discretion and make decisions based upon that.”

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