NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
City Council members in West Hollywood, California, are defending their votes to cut law enforcement funding amid skyrocketing crime in Los Angeles.
Multiple City Council members told Fox News Digital this week that the 3-2 vote Monday for a budget that reduces the number of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies will increase public safety because funding and staffing will be added for unarmed security ambassadors known as “block by block patrols.”
“There was a lot of discussion about defunding public safety, which [is] exactly what we didn’t do,” said council member John D’Amico, who voted for the budget that will leave West Hollywood with up to five fewer deputies on patrol.
“This increase in public safety services is not a cut,” D’Amico added. “It’s a rebalance of a lopsided system focused on arrests instead of safety. Giving the sheriffs more time during their days to fight and work on crime while our security ambassadors help our homeless population, provide assistance and security at a more personal level.”
D’Amico added, “In my mind this is an increase of safety services with 60 addl (sic) eyes on the street working directly with the residents and the sheriff and code compliance and our social services providers and two fewer deputies this fall.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne, also rejected the idea that fewer armed officers on the streets means less safety.
“The safety of our residents and businesses has always been a top priority for my colleagues and I,” Shyne told Fox News Digital. “Monday night, we took action to redistribute our public safety funds in a way that makes sense for our community’s needs and in fact adds over 26 new positions to our re-imagined public safety team plus full supplemental reserve funding for LASD.”
Shyne added that she is “disappointed to see members of this council and some in the community trying to paint this as something it is not.”
The third council member to vote for the new budget, Lindsey Horvath, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The two council members who voted against the budget, Mayor Lauren Meister and John Erickson, also explained their votes to Fox News Digital.
“I am all for increasing foot patrols, however, unarmed security ambassadors can only supplement, not replace, sworn police officers,” Meister said.
“Most of the residents and businesses I have heard from are opposed to cutting the sheriff’s budget,” Meister said earlier in the week. “They are outraged that people and organizations from outside our city are dictating to council how to run our city. The narrative that we can have either sheriff’s or social services,’ or ‘either sheriff’s or unarmed security teams’ is false.”
Erickson told Fox News Digital that he voted against the proposal due to concerns about the ability to hire the additional security ambassadors on the timeline stated in the budget.
“I am a big supporter of the block by block security ambassador program,” Erickson said, explaining that he supports efforts to “reimagine” community safety in West Hollywood. “But what I did not see before me was a timeline that I could support.”
In a statement, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office told Fox News Digital they are disappointed in the vote to cut their staff.
“Along with the West Hollywood Community, we are disappointed that as part of the approved city budget, four deputies will be cut in the upcoming months,” the statement said. “We would like to thank all the residents who were opposed to this vote and responded in its opposition. It appears outside activists had more weight than the residents of West Hollywood.”
Despite the reduction in law enforcement funds, the council also voted to give $14,000 more to a Russian Arts festival, amounting to a total of $50,000 in a move that received criticism on social media.
Last month, Fox News Digital reported that violent crimes are up 6.7% so far this year in Los Angeles to go along with a 1.6% increase in homicides and a 1.5% increase in shootings.
In West Hollywood, LA Magazine reported in March that crime is up 137% since last year and the town has developed a reputation of being “plagued by pickpockets.”