West Hollywood has voted to slash law enforcement funding, leaving the California city famous for its bustling Sunset Strip nightlife destination with up to five fewer deputies on patrol — despite skyrocketing crime rates in the area.
The council passed the budget with a 3-2 vote Monday, with Mayor Lauren Meister and Councilman John Erickson voting against it, reported WeHoville.com.
Meanwhile, the West Hollywood City Council approved keeping bars open until 4 a.m. and increased funding for a Russian arts festival.
The vote came just three months after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported that crime in West Hollywood jumped a startling 137 percent in Feb. 2022, compared to the same time last year.
“With a public safety crisis, and residents, businesses and tourists expecting us to deliver, I do not think this approach, while timed out, would help the community achieve our goals of creating a safer West Hollywood,” Erickson wrote in a tweet explaining why he voted to reject the budget.
The trendy community of 35,000 residents, which is home to some of L.A. County’s most buzzworthy restaurants and clubs, has recently become a destination for pickpockets.
Tuesday’s council vote means that in the next two fiscal years, funds that were meant to pay the salaries of up five sheriff’s deputies will be funneled instead to the city’s Block by Block (BBB) program, which provides unarmed security ambassadors.
“Prioritizing peoples safety doesn’t just mean people with badges and guns on the street,” Councilmember Lindsey P. Horvath said during the meeting. “We have to find another way to keep our residents safe in a way that is affordable.”
Under the new budget, the first two deputies will be removed in six months, and three more will follow six months after that, but an Entertainment Policing Team deputy will be restored.
Mayor Lauren Meister, a Democrat, has been a vocal opponent of reducing the number of deputies patrolling city streets — and many local business owners and residents also have expressed serious concerns about public safety.
“I’m not going to vote for the budget if we cut the sheriff’s (funds),” Meister said. “First of all, nobody has the gun problem that we have in this country. You can’t expect us to have a public safety team where most of the people aren’t armed in order to defend our citizens.”
Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne countered by saying that the 30 safety ambassadors who will be taking over patrol duties represented more “more for the buck” than sheriff’s deputies.
“Reimagining policing means reallocating funding. You can’t just say it without actually doing it. Period,” she said.
At the same time, the council voted to increase the budget of a Russian arts festival by $14,000 to $50,000, reported DailyMail.com.