Money, Politics At Heart Of Beachside Patrol Problems

Manhattan Beachs private security forces are hampered by economy, selfishness, and politics (Photo courtesy of davidsonscott15 via Flickr)
Manhattan Beach's private security forces are hampered by economy, selfishness, and politics(Photo courtesy of davidsonscott15 via Flickr)

Manhattan Beach’s private security force needs to see commitments from at least 150 more households if it expects to continue service in 2010, officials from the non-profit told Sheepshead Bites following Monday night’s Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association meeting.

Hours before the meeting, Beachside Patrol Director Albert Hasson blasted an e-mail to all contributors warning of the service’s impending suspension in the face of financial difficulties. Hard copies of the letter will be mailed to all residents of Manhattan Beach in the coming days.

But though the patrol’s fate may be clear, reasons for dwindling support among neighborhood residents remain murky. Some supporters point to the city’s faltering economy, others believe their neighbors aren’t interested, and at least one City Councilman points the finger at a long-standing feud between two Manhattan Beach civic organizations.

Selfishness Isn’t Fair

Ted Kleynerman, a member of Beachside Patrol’s board of directors, stood in front of the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association – perhaps for the last time – and laid the blame squarely at the feet of residents.

“Yes, the politics of the neighborhood have come into play. But I’m not going to blame the politics. Ultimately, it’s the problem of the residents,” he said. He added that only 25 percent of households are contributing to a service that benefits all, a burden that he said is unfair.

Kleynerman began listing possible reasons why residents don’t contribute to Beachside Patrol. He believes some residents rely on the rest of the neighborhood footing the bill for patrol cars and refuse to pay into the system. He also said that some believe the organization does little to deter crime as offenses still happen in the area.

“I don’t want Beachside to be a social experiment [where we’ll see how things change without it]. We have too much to lose,” he said. “If we don’t have Beachside at all, there would be more crime. And that would be a shame.”

Wallets Are Thin – Are Taxes A Solution?

Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association’s chairperson of public relations Edmond Dweck remarked that he’d like to see a tax levied on all residents of the community, but acknowledges, “That would never fly.”

Dweck, a Manhattan Beach resident for 34 years, said that service has improved tremendously in the past five or six years in which the current board operated the patrol.

“Until the current board took over the patrol it was a joke. You’d see people sleeping in the cars,” he said. But now it’s a more professional service running more efficiently, honestly and effectively.

But the improvements have done little to draw new supporters of the service and sustain its growth. Dweck said it’s not an issue of the quality of Beachside Patrol.

“It’s the economy. People don’t want to pay $400 a year,” he said. He adds that it’s still a remarkably small sum by comparison, noting that patrols in wealthier parts of Ocean Parkway and Bedford Avenue run upwards of $1,500 per household annually.

If the group signs up 350 to 400 members a year, Dweck estimates they could run two patrols and a 24-hour service.

“Unfortunately, until people experience an unfortunate incident they’re unlikely to join,” he said.

“It’s Petty Politics and Petty Issues”

In an interview with Sheepshead Bites after the MBNA meeting, Councilman Michael Nelson dismissed the notion that economic malaise or apathy played a role in Beachside Patrol’s fate.

“It’s because of the intergroup battles going on; a fight for supremacy,” he said.

Nelson described Beachside Patrol as a victim of two groups squabbling, a result of an election snafu almost two years ago that divided the 67-year-old Manhattan Beach Community Group in two, with the newly-formed MBNA developing stronger alliances with the patrol.

“This is so disheartening. Something working so well but because inter-neighborhood politics gets in the way it crumbles,” he said. “It’s going to embolden the criminals.”

MBCG president Ira Zalcman said that the split had little to do with it, as the group doesn’t dissuade its members from contributing to Beachside Patrol, and several members are signed up for the service.

Beachside Patrol began in 1970 as a subcommittee of MBCG. It soon registered as a separate entity to protect the group from lawsuits, but continued to operate as a division of the group. According to Zalcman, when MBNA formed, it was Beachside’s directors that chose to distance themselves from MBCG and began working more closely with MBNA.

“[Beachside Patrol Director Albert Hasson] took the group and he left. No one kicked him out or anything,” Zalcman said. He added that MBCG doesn’t receive reports about Beachside’s finances, membership or patrols.

Is Beachside’s Demise A Uniting Issue?

Still, Beachside may make a return yet. Dweck said the group is currently looking for the promise of commitment – not down-payments. If Beachside receives enough encouragement from the community then it may push on in the new year, he said.

Though the MBNA and the MBCG are still at odds, the crisis over a neighborhood resource could prove some common ground. And Michael Nelson is looking to play peacemaker.

“If the groups would ask me, I’d like to have a sit down in my office,” Nelson said. “I hope they can work it out because it’s only going to cause more trouble in the future.”

And there are signs the two groups may be able to work together.

“The directors of Beachside Patrol are willing to sit down and talk to anyone and any group to find a solution to keep Beachside going,” Kleynerman stated during his remarks.

Zalcman from MBCG said that he has people prepared to negotiate support for Beachside. “If they want to negotiate in good faith and come up with some sort of compromise [regarding oversight], that would be acceptable,” he said.