The New York Incident.


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The New York Incident

I went back East for two weeks in July. My first stop was Boston, then I went to New York City and ended up in Chicago.

On Wednesday, July 22nd, I boarded a late afternoon train at Boston’s South Station and rode down, through the Connecticut shoreline, into Westchester County, and finally New York.

I hadn’t been in Manhattan since 2008. And as I walked through dismal Penn Station, dragging my suitcase on wheels, laptop slung around my neck, camera in bag across my shoulders, I entered into dusk on 8th Avenue and up into loud, thrilling chaos and disorder and a human army of walkers and honking cars and trucks.

It was about 8 O’Clock and I grabbed a smoking stick of chicken kabobs from a street corner vendor. A few jovial, joking, middle-aged guys, on their way to Madison Square Garden, stood behind me and kidded me about my kabobs, asking me if they were any good. They were my first interaction in the city, and a good one: the heart and soul of New York is the casual, interfering, obtrusive love of strangers on the sidewalk.

I walked east on 34th, aiming for a bus to take me uptown on Madison to my destination at East 87th. Eyes on the Empire State Building, I walked through Herald Square and then into a protest that spilled into the intersection of 34th and 5th.

There were hundreds marching against police brutality. And there were cops, on foot and in their vehicles, yelling through bullhorns to get the people off the street. The action and the sounds, the theater of it all, pushed me into grabbing my camera from my bag and start photographing it all.

As I was shooting pictures of people against law enforcement, someone came behind me and walked away with my luggage. My entire clothing and shoes and toiletries were stolen.

I knew it right away, or rather I realized it when I pushed through the crowd and got to Madison Avenue. I still had my computer and my camera, but I was without the two-week supply of pants, underwear, socks, shoes, and toiletries I had come with.

The next morning I had to go buy new clothes. Everything. I went to the cheapest place I could find, H&M, and bought it all. It was stuffed in a plastic bag.

I was near 59th and Central Park West, and had called the NYPD to see if I could go to a precinct station and file a report the stolen suitcase. They said to go to Midtown North at 306 W. 54th St.

As I walked up to the old brick building, a female cop came roaring out of the door and pointed to me, “You! Get out of here. Go to the other side of the street! And the rest of you, you can’t sleep here! Get up and get out!”

She thought I was homeless because I was carrying my bag of new, replacement clothes.

I ignored her and went inside the cop house. A large STOP sign was in the middle of a grungy room where cops sat behind swinging gates and an elevated stage. I saw a water fountain. Thirsty, I went to get a drink beyond the STOP sign.

“Sir! Get back! You can’t just walk in and drink there!”

I explained that I was here to file a stolen property report. They told me to put my name on a list and wait at a window on the other side of the room.

I waited. And nobody called me. Other people came in and walked in front of me. So finally I looked through the glass window and saw a bearded Orthodox Jew at a desk and a black woman standing behind him.

“Yeah, what do you want?” the black woman asked.

“I’m here to report my suitcase was stolen last night,” I said.

“Your suitcase was stolen last night so what are you doing here this morning?” the Orthodox Jew asked.

“I was robbed near 34th and 5th and they said to come here and file a report,” I said.

“34th and 5th? That’s the Empire State Building. You don’t come here. You go to the Midtown South Precinct at 357 W. 35th St.” the Orthodox Jew answered.

“They said you would write up the report and send it down to them,” I said.

“Who said that? We ain’t doing their work for them!” the black lady answered.

I realized now that I was in that territory of comical and tragic best covered by Woody Allen. There was no empathy, no service; only obstacles, ridiculous and inexcusable, but this was how the city that doesn’t work works.

I walked out of the police station and marveled at the New York comedy routine I had just experienced.

I still love that city.

The House on Kittridge and Other Matters


Last night, one of our periodic public safety meetings was held at the Columbus Avenue School.

For once, the walking prostitute was not Topic A.

Instead, a sitting house represented the newest threat.

 

14926 Kittridge
14926 Kittridge

Seems 14926 Kittridge, a pleasant and recently remodeled single-family home, west of Kester, was sold to a group (The Village Family Services) that intends to turn it into a residence for young, troubled people.

Nobody in the community was informed. There were no hearings, no forum to stop the project. And now the neighbors were angry.


 

On hand was Councilwoman Nury Martinez’s Asst. Field Deputy, Guillermo Marquez, a pleasant young man in suit and glasses whose unfortunate job involves fielding complaints from every constituent reporting couch dumping, homeless encampments, abandoned houses, illegal sign posting, gang tagging, and now the addition of a troubled youth house in a quiet neighborhood that has enough trouble with troubled adults.

Councilwoman Nury Martinez
Councilwoman Nury Martinez
Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian
Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian

Also on hand was Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-CA) who represents something called “46th district, encompassing the central-southern San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.”     I never heard of him or knew I lived inside his kingdom, but apparently he is descended from other important Armenian-Americans having worked for Councilman Paul Krekorian.

He represents our district, which includes pushing for the conversion of the Orange Line Busway into the Orange Line Railway. We have a great bus system, with beautiful trees and a beautiful bike path, but it seems it must be turned into a train because not enough cars get hit by buses to make it work.

When I asked him about the wretched condition of the center of the San Fernando Valley, the district of Van Nuys, he was at a loss for words. The redevelopment and revitalization of this lost and neglected downtown does not fall under his power. That belongs to “city leaders” not “state senators”.

This is where I, bad in math, good in geography, become baffled.

Van Nuys is in the state of California. Mr. Nazarian is our state senator.

But only for a section of the San Fernando Valley. Which encompasses Van Nuys.

He is our Assemblymember. He represents a part of the Valley. He is not the mayor, or the councilman, or a representative, nor does he fly to Washington. But apparently he is someone in elected office who works upon our behalf.

Van Nuys Boulevard: Jewel of the San Fernando Valley.
Van Nuys Boulevard: Jewel of the San Fernando Valley.

 


 

Then we heard from one of the best speakers of the night: Senior LAPD Lead Officer Erika Kirk in the Van Nuys Division.

Shiny, smooth, combed dark hair pinned up, about 30, compact and well-spoken, gleaming silver badge and pressed navy uniform, she reviewed all the small bad things going on around us: kids hanging out in cars smoking pot and throwing beer bottles out the window, the empty dark house at 15102 Hamlin owned by Kathy Jo Bauer and a frequent location for crime, a falling down fence at Haynes and Columbus, negligent property owners who tolerate illegal dumping at the Casa Loma College.

Most of these situations have gone on for five or more years. They are intractable and confounding. But she assured us she is working to resolve them.

 


The problems that have afflicted this neighborhood are often flung at the police or elected officials who are asked to “just do something!”

But what can one say, for example, about a continually littered and neglected mini-mall at 14851 Victory, owned by a wealthy Bel Air man, Ori B. Fogel, who cannot even hire someone to sweep the curb in front of his stores?

Until the day comes when the errant slumlord gets a $10,000 fine, or the woman who refuses to clean up her abandoned houses faces $75,000 in criminal negligence, the property criminals will do what they have always done, milking and neglecting while earning money even as the community of Van Nuys suffers.

Stop, Thief!


Yesterday, around Noon, I went to meet my brother for lunch near his office at LaBrea and Wilshire.

I was early. We weren’t meeting until 1pm so I took a walk along the south side of Wilshire heading west, passing Detroit, Cloverdale and S. Cochran.

On the north side of Wilshire, I saw a middle-aged Asian woman in a green apron chasing a red-haired, plaid shirted male east towards Detroit. She was screaming, “Stop him! Stop him!” He kept looking back and outran her, eventually boarding a bus parked at Wilshire and LaBrea.

I ran too, crossing the street, breathlessly getting on the bus and telling the driver, “You have a man who just robbed a store on your bus. He is in back. I am calling LAPD!”

The driver waited. I called LAPD and reported a “hold-up” of a store on Wilshire and that the suspect was aboard a Metro bus. The police operator made me repeat the description of the suspect several times (“red hair, plaid shirt, middle-aged, white”).

I stood next to the bus, on the sidewalk and waited. The bus and its passengers, including the suspect, waited.

Then after about ten minutes, cops arrived.

Two police cars, including one unmarked, pulled behind the bus, shoved the rear engine cover up and crouched down, drawing their guns. Another car of cops went in front of the bus, and the police told us to all get out of the way.

I ran to the corner with others, and we watched, behind building at LaBrea, as the cops worked.

Then the driver got off and pointed at me, and a cop, his silver gun drawn, rushed at me and told me to put my hands up, to face the wall, to get down on the ground. His partner also ran at me, and I yelled, “I’m the one who called the police!” My hands up in the air, guns aimed at me, I was suddenly endangered and suspected of something. I don’t know what.

I was told to hand over my wallet and ID. And then I was allowed to put my hands down. The officer asked if my current address was the same as the one on my driver’s license.

“Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir…”

The suspect was removed from the bus, laid down on the sidewalk, handcuffed, and the other passengers got off and ran to another bus, parked down the street.

My brother came out of his office in the Samsung Tower, crossed the street, and asked me what happened.

Sweat poured down my face. We walked over to a restaurant for lunch. I ordered an iced tea, sat down at a table, wiped my face with a napkin and told him the true crime story.

Later, after lunch, I walked down Wilshire to find the lady who had been chasing the robber. I found her inside a little Korean convenience store. The cops had already visited her. Speaking not much English, she thanked me for my apprehension of the suspect, an action that might have ended my own life.

She gave me a cold iced tea.

Oh, and she said the thief had stolen three packs of cigarettes.

The Barbara Jean Jepsen Murder: January 31, 1956.


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15050 Victory

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On January 31, 1956, Barbara Jean Jepsen, an 18-year-old married woman, was found stabbed to death by her husband Joe Earl Jepsen inside their unit at 15050 Victory in Van Nuys.

 

The murder of the young woman shocked the city.

 

Photos of the crime scene exteriors are kept in the USC Digital Archives and offer a glimpse of detectives, in long coats and hats, gathering evidence and questioning blond, leather jacketed Mr. Jepsen.

 

As the investigation proceeded, other women in Los Angeles were also mysteriously knifed to death, and the killer or killers remained at large.

 

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One of the suspects was Liberace’s younger brother Rudolph, 24, whose strange (?) behavior in Granada Hills caused neighbors to call police. Rudolph was later released and not charged with any crime.

 

The cottages where Mrs. Jepsen and her husband lived, and she died, have been torn down but are remarkably similar to ones still standing near Lido Pizza on Victory.

 

As far as I can ascertain, the murder of Barbara Jean Jepsen is still unsolved 58 years later.

 

 

Some Morning Excitement.


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Just some normal Saturday morning excitement of leaving to go to the gym at 8am
and witnessing three Latinos running from a home they had just burglarized.

LAPD showed up within minutes, along with helicopters.

The suspect(s) were caught near Van Nuys Boulevard.

After I took these photos, I was walking near a neighbor’s home and found a discarded Disney credit card that had been stolen and thrown into the bushes. I called the cc company and they said it had already been reported.