In an effort to curtail recent bar-related incidents, the Hermosa Beach City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an additional $20,000 in overtime pay for city firefighters and staff to focus on code compliance during the city's busy weekend periods.
With the additional funds, Hermosa Beach Fire Chief David Lantzer said that, among other things, the fire department could enforce occupancy loads at local businesses, which may proactively prevent incidents such as the recent bar fights and stabbings.
"We are doing this in response to some of the legal problems," Lantzer told the council. "We have seen altercations, shootings, stabbings and these things are many times contributed to overcrowding... You bump into somebody in a crowded area, and all of a sudden it turns into this big fight."
Currently, Lantzer said that fire department resources get tied up on the weekends when firefighters experience the highest call volume. Because firefighters must first respond to emergencies, there is little or no time to focus on code and occupant load enforcement.
The problem of code enforcement is also compounded by the fact that the department's fire captain serves double duty as the fire marshal.
"The problem is the limitations of on-shift personnel," Lantzer said.
In his support of the recommendation, Mayor Jeff Duclos said that enforcing occupancy loads is just one step in the process of preventing future incidents for occuring. Duclos also expressed concern over the increasing crime reports in Hermosa Beach.
"I still continue to be very concerned with the police reports that I see that the robberies are up this year... and that we still have this really disturbing trend—significant trend—upward of just simple assaults," Duclos said.
The funds approved Tuesday come in additon to another $20,000 that was approved at the Sept. 11 council meeting for additional police patrols if deemed necessary.
The overtime pay for firefighters to enforce occupancy loads will come out of the city's general fund.
"The idea of this is to not just do the check, but also have a bigger physical presence," said Lantzer. "Hopefully that will help cut down on these other altercations that are occuring as a result of overcrowding or near overcrowding."