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City Hopes Code Enforcement Will Help Prevent Bar Incidents

The City Council approved additional funding that will enable the fire department to enforce occupancy loads in businesses and bars during the busy weekends.

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."

gb3 October 24, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Don't Hermosa Firefighters already make well over $100,000 a year with overtime, primarily doing inspections and shopping at Von's?
Ryan Nowicki October 24, 2012 at 05:34 PM
How about delegating "occupancy checks" to the Volunteers in Police Service ("VIPs"). They already do a great job establishing additional police presence, and could simply provide reports to the Police and Fire Depts about occupancy numbers during peak hours. The Police and Fire Depts could then follow up with warnings to local businesses during off-peak hours. The actual mission of the VIPs is to do this very type of work. Check it out here: http://www.hbvips.org/
H. Schwartz October 25, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Great idea to use the "VIPs" a perfect usage of them, it probably makes too much sense for the City to consider, after all it would save money, a novel concept to them, the union might have something to say as well. The three fire captains we have make over $200,000 each, whenever there's any fire of size , Sharkeez for example, they have to bring in L.A. County anyway, why not just contract with, but that would probably save the tax payer way to much to consider.
Guy October 27, 2012 at 03:32 AM
I'm not sure if overcrowding is the source of the fights. And spending the money on something that might not deliver the desired results is probably not a "Nash Equilibrium" :-). But I agree that the Vips are doing a good job! However bar crowd control and street crime prevention is not without danger and the VIP equipment and training had to be improved. That would be a wiser investment!
Babba Boooey October 31, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Last night Tuesday 1am-2am Screaming-Police-Fire in the parking structure. The mental patients fighting were not doing it due to over crowding...

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