Property-related incidents are the most frequent type of police-related event at UCLA, followed closely by incidents involving people whose presence or behavior is deemed disruptive or out of place, without any indication of violence, according to a new report from the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. The study examines police activity at UCLA based on data compiled in compliance with the Clery Act, which requires public disclosure by the Police Department at UCLA regarding the nature, date, time and location of incidents, as well as their disposition status or outcome. The researchers use maps and charts to visualize Clery Act data relating to events involving police, plus some fire department responses, in 2014 and 2019, with supplemental information focusing on arrests by the UCPD in 2018, the most-recent information available. Less than 10% of events involve force or threat of violence, they found, and data maps reveal that a substantial amount of UCPD activity and arrests occur off-campus, mostly in the greater Westwood area but also farther afield. Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA Luskin, helped oversee the study, working with Noah D. Zatz and Jennifer M. Chacón, professors of law at the UCLA School of Law, and Alejandra A Martinez, an undergraduate research assistant at the Lewis Center who studies economics and was the lead author. Their report also found that more than 80% of reported police activity during the study periods did not result in follow-ups for any asserted or possible crime.
Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor co-authored a paper in the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research about the importance of including teachers and staff in discussions of school climate and student risk. The paper, “School Staff Members in California: How Perceptions of School Climate are Related to Perceptions of Student Risk and Well-Being,” highlighted the perspectives of school staff members who help shape the environment of their schools. Research has shown that a positive school climate is associated with improved academic achievement and social and emotional outcomes for students. According to Astor and co-authors Gordon Capp and Tamika Gilreath, the current literature on school climate largely overlooks the perspectives of school staff members. They argue that in order to accurately understand school climate and how it influences all school constituents, school climate models need to include viewpoints of school staff members. The team used survey data from the 2013 California School Climate Survey, which included responses from 54,000 teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, social workers and other school staff members. The researchers used regression models to examine the relationship between school climate and student outcomes. Their results support a staff-focused model of school climate, and they found an increased need for training and support associated with higher levels of student risk, bullying and violence. Astor’s team encouraged school stakeholders to pay greater attention to staff perceptions and experiences before implementing interventions to improve school climate. — Zoe Day
Media reports on the Los Angeles Police Department’s expansion of its Community Safety Partnership (CSP) program cited Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap, who led a yearlong evaluation of the strategy. CSP is credited with reducing crime and improving police relations with residents at city housing developments where the program has been implemented. Leap joined Mayor Eric Garcetti, Police Chief Michel Moore and other leaders at a news conference announcing the creation of a new bureau for CSP, which will be headed by the LAPD’s second Black female deputy chief. “I am grateful when the chief says, ‘It’s going to be a blueprint.’ And, yes, we are going to hold his feet to the fire,” Leap said. “The community put us on notice and said, ‘We want policing, but we want a different kind of policing. We want CSP, but we want it to be participatory and accountable.’ ” News outlets covering the announcement include the Los Angeles Times, LAist, NBC4 News and FOX11 News.
By Michelle Einstein
Efforts to ensure safe drinking water for children need further support to reach their intended audience, according to an analysis of California’s mandate requiring child care facilities to test their water for lead, known as AB 2370.
The finding from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is part of a new report and policy brief that examine strategies for developing and implementing the state’s testing and remediation program for those sites. Among its recommendations, the report stresses the need for a dedicated funding stream to ensure the program’s success.
“We’ve learned from a similar program in California’s schools that if robust monitoring and funding doesn’t exist, much of the needed testing and remediation won’t be implemented,” said Gregory Pierce, associate director of the center and lead author of the study.
In order to be successful, Pierce predicts, the program will require five to 10 times more funding than the $5 million currently budgeted by the state.
To determine how to best implement the program, the researchers synthesized feedback from a variety of stakeholders, including child care providers, environmental justice advocates and water utilities. They found several current shortcomings, including the fact that many child care providers have not received directives to test their water and that the program’s messaging is only available in English and Spanish.
The study recommends that stakeholders at all levels have a voice in helping to design the program to correct problems. A co-design process that includes parents, day care centers, utilities and state agencies will result in higher compliance rates and confirm that all centers have their facilities tested in a timely manner, the researchers say.
It is also important that the program not increase mistrust of tap water in settings where such concern is unmerited, according to the report. For instance, after hearing about the lead testing program, some day care centers and parents began using bottled beverages, even though their drinking water was clean. Bottled water can be expensive and has a negative environmental impact.
Lead exposure poses an acute threat to young children and their families. Even low-level exposure has been connected to loss in IQ, hearing impairments and learning disabilities. Recognizing this threat, California passed Assembly Bill 2370 in 2018, which mandates the testing of drinking water for lead at licensed child care facilities built before 2010. These sites must complete the tests before 2023 and, if elevated levels are found, remedy the problem or find alternative sources of water.
AB 2370 represents a meaningful step toward further protecting children’s health, the researchers say, but implementing the law remains a huge feat. Thousands of day care centers must test and clean up their plumbing systems, and many of these facilities are experiencing funding and staffing shortages, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Overall, the researchers view the program as an important step toward ensuring the human right to clean water for all Californians. A more streamlined and supported implementation process, they say, would help officials better deliver on-the-ground results statewide.
The study was funded by First 5 LA, an independent public agency working to strengthen systems, parents and communities so that by 2028, all children in Los Angeles County will enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life.
“Transit Crime and Sexual Violence in Cities: International Evidence and Prevention,” a new book co-edited by Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, has just been published. The book presents case studies from 18 cities on six continents to demonstrate the widespread incidence of crime in transit environments, primarily targeting women and young people. “Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public spaces are everyday occurrences for women and girls around the world and a threat to the overall sustainability of the city,” wrote Loukaitou-Sideris and co-editor Vania Ceccato of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Concerns about physical safety aboard public transit systems can deter individuals from fully participating in school, work and public life, they noted. The book identifies urban planning improvements to safeguard passengers and ensure that cities become more accessible and therefore more sustainable. Contributors to the book, published by Routledge, represent several disciplines, including environmental criminology, architecture and design, urban planning, geography, psychology, gender and LGBTQ studies, transportation and law enforcement. In the book’s foreword, Juma Assiago of UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities program wrote that the publication “contributes to our quest for safer, inclusive, resilient, equitable and sustainable cities and human settlements.”
Social Welfare Professor Laura Abrams spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the growing threat of child sex abuse as children spend more time on home computers during lockdown. With schools closed and children staying home under COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, law enforcement officials have been overwhelmed by a surge in tips about online child sex abuse. Sexual predators lurk on chat sites, social media and gaming platforms, often coercing children into sending inappropriate pictures, then blackmailing them for more explicit content. “In this time of shelter in place, unfortunately children don’t have a lot of contacts with mandated reporters: teachers, mental health providers, coaches, mentors,” Abrams said. Sexual exploitation can cause stress and suicidal feelings in children, and make it more difficult to focus or stick to normal sleeping patterns, she explained. However, huge disruptions to routine — which many kids have experienced recently — can lead to similar behavior or thoughts, Abrams added.
Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke to the Daily Beast about the long lines expected once lockdown ends and businesses reopen. New limits on the number of people allowed inside an establishment at a time could result in lines that stretch down entire blocks, cutting into curb space and affecting the experience of pedestrians. “In most places, sidewalks have become quite empty,” Loukaitou-Sideris noted. “Unfortunately, that means sidewalks do not have the amenities that are necessary for people to stand in line.” Many urban planners are hoping to make American cities more walkable to allow for continued social distancing post-lockdown. Loukaitou-Sideris said she hopes to see “some kind of retrofitted amenities — movable seating, more shading and protection from the sun” — to accommodate people who must spend more time waiting in lines.
By Lauren Hiller
A new UCLA study found that being a woman, identifying as LGBTQI, having a long commute, or waiting in poorly lit areas significantly increased the likelihood of being sexually harassed on public transit.
In the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies report, “Transit Safety Among University Students,” Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and researchers sought to better understand the characteristics of individuals and circumstances that increased their risk of harassment during their public transit journeys.
Professor Loukaitou-Sideris reported the findings during the Lewis Center’s April 3 InterActions LA conference, which brought together researchers, transit agencies and community activists around the topic of women’s safety in transportation.
The study surveyed 1,284 students from UCLA and the California State University campuses of Los Angeles and Northridge. According to the report, this population was chosen because university students are typically more transit-dependent than the general public, and because their young age may make them more vulnerable to victimization. Los Angeles was one of numerous cities studied as part of a global research project.
Much of the preexisting data on perceived safety and incidents of sexual harassment on transit in Los Angeles did not identify such characteristics as gender, sexuality and race. This study also uniquely delved into when in the course of a transit journey — walking to or from a station, waiting for the bus or train, or on the actual vehicle — sexual harassment occurred.
According to the study, 72% of respondents experienced some form of harassment on a bus, compared to 48% on rail, with women experiencing far more numerous instances than men. However, very few students (10%) reported the experience to either law enforcement or transit agencies. And more than half of women reported changing how they dressed or adjusting their travel patterns, such as riding only during daytime or waiting in well-lit areas.
Because women make up more than half of transit riders in the United States, Loukaitou-Sideris said it’s imperative to prioritize their safety.
“Their safety is an important concern that we need to tackle if we want to have more women riding transit and — for women who are already captive transit riders — riding transit more comfortably and without fear,” she said. “I think everyone deserves that in our transit systems.”
Safe Transit During COVID-19
The challenges that women and vulnerable populations face have only been magnified by the current COVID-19 crisis. Under statewide and local “safer at home” orders, it is frequently low-income women of color who are still traveling to work to provide essential services to the rest of the region, according to the other panelists at the InterActions event, including speakers from Pueblo Planning, Los Angeles Walks and Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles (ACT-LA).
“COVID-19 has revealed that our transit system is a lifeline,” said Mariana Huerta Jones, senior coalition and communications manager at ACT-LA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring equitable access to public transit infrastructure and funds.
During the InterActions presentation, Huerta Jones said public transit is often the only transportation option available to low-income residents working in jobs deemed essential in industries such as grocery stores, hospitals and sanitation.
Ensuring Women’s Safety
Other InterActions speakers like Monique López, founder and social justice planner at Pueblo Planning, spoke about the importance of including the voices of marginalized communities when crafting policy recommendations. And Daisy Villafuerte, advocacy and engagement manager from Los Angeles Walks, discussed grassroots efforts to improve transit experiences.
Presenting the next steps from LA Metro’s recent “Understanding How Women Travel” report, Meghna Khanna, senior director of the Countywide Planning and Development Department, and her team found that safety is still the biggest concern and barrier to riding transit for all women riders. While 60% of women felt safe traveling on Metro during the day, that number decreased to 20% at night.
Khanna and her team at LA Metro found that women frequently mentioned increased police presence as a solution that would help them feel safer on transit; however, not all transit riders agree.
“For many people of our community, more police doesn’t mean more safety. It can actually mean the opposite. It can mean racial profiling, harassment, criminalizing of poor or houseless individuals,” Huerta Jones said.
Solutions beyond policing — such as increased service frequency, improved cleanliness around stations, and the presence of non-police transit ambassadors — are just first steps in ensuring women can use transit without fear.
View a video about transit safety:
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to NBC LA about the record low number of car accidents following state and local “stay at home” orders in Southern California. With fewer drivers behind the wheel and the closure of all non-essential businesses to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, traffic crashes in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties dropped 73% last month compared to March 2019. The total number of crashes causing fatalities, injury and property damage went from 21,270 in March 2019 to 5,827 last month. “The amount of travel that’s happening has fallen as close to zero as maybe we’ve ever seen in the modern era,” Manville said. The coronavirus traffic data is being used to inform discussions not only about the high toll that driving takes, but the environmental, social and economic impacts as well, such as how companies handle working from home.
Cecilia Menjívar, a UCLA professor of sociology who is one of the faculty experts affiliated with the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, is a co-author of a recent opinion piece for CNN that contends that society would be better served by using the phrase “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing.” In the effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, “what health experts are really promoting are practices that temporarily increase our physical distance from one another in order to slow the spread of the virus. They are not recommending social disconnection, social exclusion or rampant individualism,” wrote Menjívar and co-authors Jacob G. Foster and Jennie E. Brand, who are also sociology faculty members at UCLA. “We must be physically distant now — our health depends on it. But we should redouble our efforts to be socially close. Our health depends on that, too.”