Police Chief Briefs City Council | Preventing Fires and Assessing Homeless Situation

Police Chief Joe Ortiz updates public during City Council meeting on some of his department’s efforts in face of the coronavirus pandemic

SouthPasadenan.com News | SPPD Chief Joe Ortiz during a May 6 City Council meeting

An alert resident on San Pascual Avenue in South Pasadena called police Sunday to report a suspicious male attempting to light a fire in the brush.

Moments later, noted South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz, additional reports were received of three separate fires between the 300 and 500 blocks of Arroyo Drive. Containment was quickly established, and emergency personnel responded within minutes to locate the suspect and quickly extinguish the fires.

Ortiz talked about the situation Wednesday night inside the City Council chambers at City Hall during an update on efforts his department is making during the coronavirus pandemic. His remarks followed those given by South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle and before City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe talked about steps the city plans to make in reopening in face of COVID-19.   

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“Please know that your city is safe, and your staff is healthy,” said Ortiz during his initial comments as councilmembers participated through Zoom. “We continue to decontaminate vehicles and workspaces on a routine basis, coupled with taking temperatures of our employees, before and after their shifts.”

The police chief then touched on a several areas related to the department’s public safety team, stressing the importance of a new project – “Lock it or Keep it.”

With an increase in thefts and burglaries from motor vehicles in the city, Ortiz said the Crime Prevention Team “has continued to deploy during specific times of the week,” he said. “To date, 341 crime prevention fliers have been left on vehicles parked on the street. Since my last report, we have had zero thefts reported to the department and two arrests.”

Addressing the Heat wave

With an increase in temperatures in recent days, Ortiz said Emergency cooling centers are now open across Los Angeles County during the heat wave. To obtain the most current list of the county’s emergency cooling centers or view a map of the sites,  he is urging residents to visit ready.lacounty.gov/heat or dial 2-1-1.

Homeless Situation in City

Officers, explained Ortiz, continue to check on and assist “unhoused neighbors during these challenging times,” he said. “This week, we have been spending quite a bit of time with one neighbor sheltering on a bus bench down on Huntington Drive. This particular neighbor has stayed at a few locations because of Project Roomkey. We were notified today that his name is in the queu, for the next spot at a local shelter. We have also contacted the surrounding neighbors, updating them on our actions.”

As L.A. County moves toward reopening, one of the prerequisites is ensuring the most vulnerable are protected.

That is the goal of Project Roomkey, according to its website, a collaborative effort by the state, county and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to secure hotel and motel rooms for individuals experiencing homelessness. It provides a way for people who don’t have a home to stay inside to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Project Roomkey aims to not only protect high-risk individuals, but to also prevent the spread of the deadly virus in communities and protect the capacity of our hospitals and healthcare system.

COVID-19 Debrief

Ortiz watches a daily COVID-19 briefing with LA County officials. On Wednesday, he noted that Dr. Barbara Ferrer, from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, encouraged residents of LA County to report violations of health orders to their inspectors with environmental health.