Local News

Public safety concerning City parking structures

The public parking structures and downtown area surveillance cameras have been out of order for nearly two years. The City Council unanimously approved $1.4 million for a new camera system at the October 5 meeting. The police department is hopeful that the cameras will be installed before the end of the year. In the meantime, according to police, other measures are being employed to protect the area.

SoCo parking structure at 8am on a Saturday.

During the council discussion Mayor Whitaker said that neither he nor the other councilmembers ever received email concerning camera failure and had he or his fellow councilmembers received such a notice, they would have made this a priority.

However, a City Public Records Request (R000627-091721) asking for emails concerning cameras showed only one dated February 2020 from Police Chief Dunn to all councilmembers, City Manager Domer, Antonia Castro-Graham, and Ellis Chang, explaining that the cameras needed to be replaced. There were no emails responding to Chief Dunn’s email.

Dunn currently serves as both Police Chief and IT manager.

Retired Observer editor Sharon Kennedy also sent an email on August 25 alerting every City Councilmember of the lack of surveillance cameras and the serious safety issue for any citizen using public parking. Only Councilmember Zahra responded and in an August 31 email said that it was a priority and he was forwarding the email to Chief Dunn for an update.

Fullerton Police Chief Dunn was asked by City Council at the October 5 Council meeting to update the public about the ongoing investigation involving JP23 where resident Samantha Velasquez said she believed she had been drugged and after leaving the bar was raped and left in the SoCo parking structure.

“There have been multiple people who have come forward with similar allegations as the original victim [Samantha Velasquez],” Chief Dunn said. “These investigations take months. We want to get all the evidence.” The Observer was later told by Fullerton Police Dept Sgt. McCaskill that the exact number of victims coming forward in this case could not be released due to HIPAA regulations.

“Running congruent to [the assault, drugging, and rape investigations] is the administrative process that is our remedy process through the entertainment permit that I have control over in my office,” Chief Dunn said. “That process is ongoing. We are working through those [steps] now and I think the public will have some more clarity as to the efforts of the department in both the criminal vein and the FMC (Fullerton Municipal Code) vein, which is what governs the entertainment permit process.”

Interviewed after the first remedy hearing at the police department for JP23, the owner Jacob Poozhikala said that one of the first remedies was the removal of the fishbowl drink, which Police Chief Dunn said is easily spiked with drugs. Since then, Poozhikala has also removed the window tinting that limited visibility and put up a tiny sign in the women’s bathroom that tells women how to protect themselves when out drinking.

“These problems [over-intoxication and fights] are not JP23 problems, these are all bar problems,” Poozhikala said.

Observer volunteers visited the downtown nightlife scene and found several apparent Conditional Use Permit (CUP) violations (for which JP23 had previously been cited) happening at other bars including patron cover charges at both Matador and Ziing’s. Matador had over 100 people lined up around the corner to Amerige, and Revolucion was serving drinks in fishbowls (large enough to inebriate five people).

3 replies »

  1. Chief Dunn says, “We want to get all the evidence” for the numerous people who have come forward about being drugged and assaulted and/or robbed downtown. But I question whether all FPD officers are as motivated.

    I encountered a well spoken, clean cut, young man while walking past JP23 one Sunday morning. He didn’t know what happened to him after he met with friends at JP23 the night before. But he woke up in the alley next to JP23 with his wallet and cell phone missing.

    I asked him to report it to the police and to tell the business owner. He said he would. He also agreed to speak with the Fullerton Observer.

    When I followed up with him about a week later. He no longer wanted to talk to the press. After talking to the police and being told by them that they could do nothing because there was no evidence, he was convinced it was his fault that he had been robbed.

    I’m concerned that victims of crime are being turned away without any report taken and of course then, no investigation and no statistics available to report the true number of crimes occurring downtown.

  2. The city of Fullerton has known for years about the cameras. The police do not want city cameras operating after the Kelly Thomas incident. It expose they corruption of the police department Typical pass the buck situation here.

  3. Whitaker frequently blames staff for his failures to prepare for Council meetings.