LAPD SLO Verdin Interview
This month, Kari presents a special interview with LAPD Senior Lead Officer, Jose Verdin. We are so thankful he stopped by to give some great tips on working with your community officer to help create the most positive community at your apartment building.
Kari: What is a Senior Lead Officer (SLO)?
Officer Verdin: A Senior Lead Officer is a liaison between the department and the community. The SLO works with the community at large to get community issues resolved.
Kari: SKY Properties took over management of a building on Sepulveda about a year ago. You mentioned to Carmen, our property supervisor, that our management really helped the whole neighborhood. What did you mean by that?
Officer Verdin: When we see positive environmental changes done to a building, such as improved painting, gates, lighting, plants, etc., it really brings a positive sense of community to the neighborhood. It causes people to say, “You know, this is a place I wouldn’t mind living.”
Kari: You mentioned some aesthetic improvements that can improve a building, are there other key improvements?
Officer Verdin: Graffiti removal is very important. There are two types of graffiti. You have taggers and you have gang graffiti. Both types must be removed immediately to communicate to the person who put it up that it’s simply not worth their time to keep putting it back up again because management will simply paint right over it immediately. They will move on as it will be discouraging for them to know whatever they paint will be painted over immediately. We encourage all businesses and building managers to get rid of graffiti as soon as it goes up.
Kari: So, our particular building on Sepulveda, when we took it over, had “soliciting” being done right in front of the building, which seemed to go away after we began making improvements to the building. Any idea as to why that activity would disappear?
Officer Verdin: Yes, we have what we believe is the broken window theory: When people see that there is a building that nobody cares about or no one is cleaning it up, people will feel they can do whatever they want in front or inside the building, be it prostitutes or gang members. The second they see that someone is cleaning the building, someone is caring for it and paying attention, they make a mental note as to say, “We can’t come back here, people are paying attention, and are going to focus on us.”
Kari: Yes, it seems for us, once we made a few evictions, got rid of some bad elements within the building, screening new tenants really well, and genuinely showed that we cared for the building, other residents began picking up trash, asking their family members to clean up after themselves in the communal areas, etc. It really started to promote positive change within. And so, what you’re saying is that what happens within the building, starts to translate to the community at large.
Officer Verdin: Correct. And while screening new tenants is very important, being active in getting rid of the bad apples is critical. It’s more important because that will ensure that other tenants know that the building and community is cared for, that management is paying attention. There’s going to be way more good tenants than bad tenants, and when the good tenants are encouraged that management is paying attention, they will take pride in their building and care for it as well.
Kari: Any other advice you can give building owners and management?
Officer Verdin: Yes, having a relationship with your local Senior Lead Officer is very important. I’ve met with your onsite manager at your Sepulveda building on numerous occasions, and it really helps with community issues. For example, he brought to my attention a person he thought might be of interest to us. So we paid attention, monitored activities, and ultimately made an arrest. But having that heads-up from the onsite manager really helped, because, for us, we look at crime trends, but pinning a person to a particular trend can be difficult. So it helps when we get a tip about someone engaged in an activity consistent with a local crime trend. We can respond.
Kari: How best can a building community get involved with their SLO?
Officer Verdin: We have an apartment watch that facilitates onsite meetings with a building’s community. For example, the Senior Lead Officer can come to a building’s tenant meeting and pass out flyers to the residents, which describe activities that are illegal in the building, such as parties, trash, and loud music. Often, tenants will see that, and not having realized loud music was illegal, it will stop them before a problem arises simply because now they are familiar with the law. Having that relationship with your SLO is helpful to the community.
Kari: What advice can you give about getting residents together? I know for neighborhood watch groups, it might be easier to get people together, but for apartment building communities, sometimes it’s difficult to get everybody together.
Officer Verdin: Yes, what I’ve seen is that if you can hold the meeting at a communal area of your building, and offer refreshments, that will achieve the highest level of participation. If people know that there will be hot dogs and refreshments for the kids, they are more likely to participate. Also, finding out what time is most convenient to the residents is important. Some residents prefer weekends, while others might prefer week nights. So, it’s best to ask, take a survey of what’s going to work for them, and then set a convenient date and time for everyone. But having the meetings onsite is probably the most important thing. Also, for smaller, neighboring buildings, we can combine the meetings of a few small buildings because it’s likely that similar crime trends and issues are occurring.
Kari: Any last tips?
Officer Verdin: Yes. Gate codes and contact information. It’s critical to immediately communicate updated gate codes to your Senior Lead Officer. If there’s a problem where you need us on the property, it’s very important that we can gain access without hesitation. With contact information, it’s important to at least exchange emails, if not phone numbers as well, between the onsite manager and Senior Lead Officer. If there is a developing issue, resolution can come more quickly, working directly with the SLO, rather than having to go through calling into the department. [For emergencies, always dial 9-1-1 first].
Kari: Great. Thank you, Officer Verdin for spending time with us today, and for sharing such important tips on apartment community relations with their Senior Lead Officer.
Officer Verdin: Thank you for having me.
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