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Questions of 'Poaching' Surround New South Park BID Security

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, December 20, 2007, at 12:09PM

On January 1st South Park gets a new Business Improvement District (BID). The existing "South Park BID" is becoming the "South Park Business and Community Benefit District BID," with a reworked organizational structure to support its upgraded name. AEG, owner of Staples Center and L.A. Live, and the district's largest tenant, will be taking over security operations. The firm's security staff recently told those at a December 12th meeting that it intends to provide "a new look for the South Park BID."

Aspects of that new look aren't sitting well with other BIDs in the Downtown area. AEG stated that it intends to offer South Park and the LA Live footprint "highly-trained" Public Safety Officers for the district’s security. To recruit staff AEG is offering higher wages and medical benefits, an offer that some feel is intended to be particularly attractive to those already working in the Downtown area.

Estella Lopez, Executive Director of the Central City East Association, oversees the Central City East, Toy District and Arts District BIDs. She says that Downtown BIDs have so far co-existed with an informal professional protocol. "There is an unspoken code of courtesy between the BIDs to prevent ‘poaching," she explains, adding that her BIDs have lost no staff to the South Park BID.

When asked at the December 12th Community Police Advisory Board meeting, AEG security were quick to shoot down any suggestion they would be recruiting from other Downtown BIDs. Sources at other BIDs tell a different story. One claims that two members of the Downtown Center BID's staff have left for the South Park BID after direct recruitment.

Randall Tampa, Operations Director for the Fashion District BID, is not so secretive. “I assigned twelve of my BID personnel to assist LAPD Central Division at their annual Police Booster Children’s Christmas Party,” said Tampa. “[AEG] saw my personnel in action, and began recruiting them with promises of higher wages and other perks.”

One of Tampa's senior staff, a bike mechanic and classroom instructor, decided to accept the South Park offer and gave the Fashion District BID his two weeks notice. Tampa says the staffer was told by AEG that he must instead start with them immediately or the offer would be rescinded. The mechanic/instructor resigned without fulfilling his notice in order to keep the new job opportunity.

BID Public Safety Officers, most under 25 years old, often hope to use the BID experience as a way to step into professional law enforcement careers. Their training and work experience often includes accompanying LAPD officers on ride-alongs. While hiring information and referrals are shared between the BIDs, both Lopez and Tampa said that there has not been aggressive recruiting for one district over another.

The BIDs are happy to help their staff in advancing their careers. Lopez says that her BIDs “try to be a gateway to law enforcement.” It may be, though, that the path just got another step. This one may not be as welcomed.

Calls to DCBID and AEG for comment were not returned as of the time this story was posted.

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