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ADL, LAPD Host Jewish Community Briefing Event

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), alongside the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Community Security Initiative (CSI) and Community Security Service (CSS) held a Jewish community briefing event on Thursday discussing recent threats to the community.
[additional-authors]
September 11, 2023
Courtesy of ADL Los Angeles.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), alongside the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Community Security Initiative (CSI) and Community Security Service (CSS) held a Jewish community briefing event on Thursday discussing recent threats to the community.

ADL Los Angeles Regional Director Jeffrey Abrams began the event at Kahal Joseph Congregation by lamenting the current “historic rise in antisemitism,” citing various statistics in the ADL’s 2022 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, including 237 incidents of antisemitism in Los Angeles last year, a 30% increase from the previous year. Still, Abrams said he was “incredibly proud” of the recently formed Southern California Jewish Security Alliance co-founded by the ADL and the Federation, touting the fact that the alliance makes it easier for the Jewish community to communicate. “It’s time for the Jewish community to work together,” Abrams declared.

LAPD Deputy Chief Blake Chow agreed with Abrams that “we are in unprecedented times right now” regarding hate, pointing out that hate incidents and hate crimes are at an “all-time high.” “Our numbers are really, really underreported,” Chow said. He blamed the rise in hate on the “weird political environment” that “emboldens” people to act out on hate. “Social media takes people who think alike––especially hate groups––and puts them all in the same virtual room,” Chow argued. He urged people to “report things that they see” and the LAPD needs the data “to understand what is happening in our communities.” Additionally, Chow stressed the importance of holding schools accountable to teach kids about the dangers of hate, as by the time children reach the ages of 12 or 13 “it’s almost really too late.”

Chow proceeded to explain the process of capturing the gunman behind the shootings of two Jewish men in the Pico-Robertson area in February. A West Los Angeles police officer had caught the shooter’s license plate while taking pictures on her phone, and with that information police discovered that the gunman “had been contacted by the FBI twice” and had been flagged for antisemitic activity in other parts of the state. The LAPD was able to track the gunman’s cell phone and see that he was headed toward Palm Springs, so they contacted the Riverside and Palm Springs police to help find the gunman. “The actions of the community, the officers, our partners … I have no doubt in my heart that we saved lives,” Chow said. Chow described the gunman as a “lone wolf” who “blamed the Jewish community for COVID and he had googled Jewish delis and that’s how he ended up on Pico.” “There are probably more people out there like that,” Chow added, urging people to be vigilant and “say something” if they see something suspicious.

The LAPD deputy chief explained that people have to call 911 and wait for a police officer in order to report an act of hate and that the police chief has a working group in place for people to report acts of hate online. Additionally, Chow explained that brand new police officers are taken on a day of “Jewish-American experience” to educate officers about the issues the Jewish community faces. “Our job really is to give them some tools to make it easier for them to serve you,” Chow said.

Larry Mead, Vice President of the Federation’s CSI, explained that he had worked at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office for 36 years and has an “extensive background” in information gathering before joining CSI. The Federation decided to establish CSI because they found a need to provide information in a timely manner to the Jewish community. At CSI, analysts are monitoring things 24 hours and “looking into nefarious characters,” Mead said, recalling how they were looking into a suspicious person online whose rhetoric “escalated,” so CSI sent reports to the LAPD and FBI and they took action. “CSI is looking out for the Jewish community,” he said.

Mariana Patin, head of LAPD Major Crimes Division, addressed the recent incidents of swatting. Swatting, Patin explained, is when someone calls in a fake crime––such as someone falsely reporting to police that a bomb is about to explode––in order to create “chaos” and “panic.” One indicator that a call may be a swatting incident is that if someone is reporting a shooting, usually there will be multiple people calling in to report it, but if only one person is, then it’s likely a swatting incident. Additionally, the people calling in swatting incidents are typically gamers, so it’s important to listen during the call if there are gunshots in the background or keyboard noises. Regardless, the LAPD treats every call “as an emergency until proven otherwise.” A lot of swatting calls have targeted houses of worship, many of which are the Jewish community, and occur during livestreaming. Patin added that there have been three swatting calls over the past 3-4 days, and that the LAPD were able to determine the phone number and match it with someone who the FBI was already investigating; the person behind the three swatting calls is believed to have been behind 40 total swatting calls.

“As long as we can keep the communication open and work together, I think we will be ok,” Patin said.

FBI Special Agent Cody Bescript circled back to the gunman behind the February Pico shootings, explaining that the gunman will be going to trial on November 28. Bescript touted “how perfectly we worked together with the locals” and the result was the “fastest indictment we’ve ever had.” “This guy is never going to bother anyone in this community ever again,” the FBI agent declared.

Los Angeles Joint Regional Intelligence Critical Infrastructure Protection Analyst Andrew Carlson told attendees that a good report of suspicious activity includes “a license plate number” and “a good description of a person” as well as surveillance footage.

Abrams concluded the event by calling “tonight … an important night for our communities” and urged attendees to “please share what you learned tonight”

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