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LOS ANGELES -- The party car isn't quite what it sounds like.
Flooded by scores of calls almost every weekend about loud parties in the northern San Fernando Valley, some of which have turned violent, police created units called "party cars" early this year.
The officers on these patrols in the Los Angeles Police Department's Mission Area didn't have to respond to regular calls. They could drive through areas known for parties, looking for trouble before anyone even called police. If someone did call in a noise complaint, those officers could get there quickly.
As a result, police nipped parties in the bud before they got out of hand, and other officers were freed to handle more serious crime.
But manpower and funding issues made it tough to staff the special patrols, so Mission commanders had to pull the plug on the party cars in midsummer.
Now, at the request of the police captain overseeing the area, Councilman Richard Alarcon has proposed spending more than $42,000 in discretionary funds to ensure a party car each weekend through the end of the year.
Alarcon and Capt. Todd Chamberlain planned to discuss the issue at a public event today in Mission Hills, a day before the City Council is set to consider the proposal.
"I absolutely believe that this will save lives," Alarcon said Wednesday.
People have reported a robbery, a rape and more than a dozen aggravated assaults at parties in the Mission Area just this year, said Lt. Paul Vernon, the detective commander for the area. And authorities said nine young people were killed at parties in the Antelope Valley before party cars were instituted there several years ago.
Just in the Mission Area, police got 4,980 calls for loud parties after 10 p.m. last year.
And this isn't always just teenagers, holding a party while Mom and Dad are away, who need to be told, "Keep it down."
Vernon said parties with 100 people or more - sometimes far more - are routine. Music can be heard as many as five blocks away, and "guests," invited or not, have been known to vomit on lawns and break into cars.
"These are not little baptisms or kids' parties or quinceaneras," Vernon said. "These are large parties that take over neighborhoods in certain ways."
The problem is especially bad in Sylmar and exists in Arleta and Panorama City, too, Vernon said.
Alarcon said he's heard about the party car strategy since the 1990s. It clearly works, he said, but limited funding has made it tough to do regularly. Alarcon is proposing using money allocated to his council district because of the state Assembly bill that took funding away from redevelopment agencies.
The LAPD's Foothill Division, which covers the Northeast Valley, started using party cars in about 2004. A couple of years after that, sheriff's deputies in the Lancaster and Palmdale areas did, too.
In those areas, they're mainly used on summer weekends.
Lt. Vince Carter of the sheriff's Lancaster Station said commanders there believe party cars have led to a reduction in shootings and other assaults.