An abandoned suitcase in Manhattan Beach caused anxiety among some residents last week, and now they’re saying the city was slow to react to their concerns.
After appearing in front of Manhattan Beach Park (at Ocean Avenue) on Wednesday morning, neighbors called the police immediately. Forty-five minutes passed, and when police turned up they left after a quick inspection. With the suitcase still standing there more than 24 hours later, one reader wrote to us wondering if the city took complaints like this seriously.
“Aren’t we supposed to say something if we see something?” the reader asked us. “The public did the right thing by saying something. Isn’t it up to the police to now do something?”
Then this happened:
At the prompting of both my neighbors, I called 311 and told her that my neighbor had called a day before and the police just took a quick look at it and left. Then she told me that she would call Sanitation to have it removed. I told her that that wasn’t what I requested and that I would like to know why it was still there after 24 hours. She said the police must have determined that it wasn’t hazardous and she would call Sanitation to have it removed.
I said that that wasn’t what I requested and she was putting words in my mouth. Then I asked again if in fact that was the case, that the police determined it wasn’t hazardous. Then she asked me to hold while she investigates. She said that in a very annoyed tone of voice.
She came back a few minutes later and said that she would either call Sanitation or I could speak to the terrorism task force, which I sort of felt foolish doing. She said she wouldn’t take action on her own and I would have to make the decision. So I reluctantly talked to the terrorism guy who turned out to be very nice and polite. I told him that it wasn’t my idea to talk to him. He looked up the case and told me that the police determined it either was empty or had clothes in it and wasn’t hazardous. (Would have been nice if they spoke to my neighbor who called the first time who was outside when they looked at it.) I don’t know how they could determine that without even opening it. But so be it. He asked me what I would like to have done and he could call the precinct again and ask them to remove it. I agreed. Several hours later it was gone. I don’t know who took it away, the police, Sanitation, or one of the neighbors.
The whole experience, except for speaking to the terrorism guy was very annoying. In Israel, this type of thing is taken very seriously. Here we still think of it as a joke. I once reported an abandoned attache case in a subway mezzanine to a token clerk and he told me he couldn’t investigate for four hours until his shift is over and he would be able to leave his booth. In Israel, I left two heavy suitcases outside a men’s room at the sirport for about 60 seconds because I was too lazy to drag them inside with me. Security had them removed in that time and buried them in underground holes a quarter-mile from the airport. (Emphasis added)
We contacted the 61st Precinct to get their side of the story. We’ll update when they get back to us.
In the meantime, what do you think? We all know that if a suitcase or a car sits too long in Times Square, law enforcement (and media) come out in force. But do they care when it happens in quiet residential neighborhoods? And should we even worry?