The meeting, held at Resurrection Church, was a joint effort between the Boyle Heights Stakeholders Association, The Boyle Heights Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community, and The Voice Community News.
About 100 people gathered including community members, police officers, and elected officials, to hear presentations and research regarding the harmful effect of alcohol in Boyle Heights.
Carlos Morales, from the Voice Community News moderated the meeting and gave opening remarks. Morales said the goals of the meeting were to “empower, educate, and inspire” the community.
Presenters included Jorge Castillo from the San Francisco-based industry watchdog, Alcohol Justice; Yolanda Cordero, from the Los Angeles County Department of Health; Dennis Quinonez, Director of the Boyle Heights Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community (BHCSDC); as well as Will Salao and Jeannine Peregina from the State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
Presentations included statistics showing the affect that alcohol consumption has on our state, city, and neighborhood. According to the LA County Department of Public Health, nearly 2,500 people die each year in alcohol-related deaths, and incidents cost the county an estimated 10.8 billion dollars.
Research from the Boyle Heights Coalition showed that in a six-month period in Boyle Heights there were 782 violations in alcohol-related crimes, ranging from traffic incidents to domestic violence. A correlation was made between the number of liquor licenses and the rate of crime.
The transferring of alcohol licenses from person to person was another issue brought to light, as it has been a “loophole” used by business owners to avoid losing their license to sell alcohol.District 14 Councilman Jose Huizar called the research-based findings “a call to action” and promised to create a task force to help implement policy recommendations, as well as continue to work with the LAPD, and City Planning to reduce the number of alcohol licenses in Boyle Heights.
The presentation by officials from ABC, was the first of its kind in agency history, as the department generally does not present to the public. Officials explained the licensing process, as well as violations. In regard to violators, Salao said the agency’s number one priority is youth access to alcohol.
To conclude the meeting, Terry Marquez, of the Boyle Heights Stakeholders Association, directed the answering of questions that had been submitted during the presentations. At one point a community member interrupted, claiming that the ABC does not follow through on complaints. Officials from ABC responded saying they have limited resources, and only 5 investigators for the entire state, but that every complaint is taken seriously. “We’re a slow agency,” Salao said, “but we will get to it eventually.”
Questions that went unanswered during the meeting were to be answered in the Voice Community News publication.
Jennifer Lam is a reporter at Boyle Heights Beat and a junior at Francisco Bravo Magnet. She also spoke at Thursday’s community meeting about her story on the number of liquor stores in Boyle Heights.