LAPD-sponsored carnival aims to raise funds, build trust

The carnival rides sit idle shortly after the event's opening.
The carnival rides sit idle shortly after the event's opening. Julio Morales/KPCC

Hundreds braved the midday heat to attend the last day of a three-day police-sponsored carnival in West Los Angeles.

The carnival was sponsored by the Los Angeles Police Department's Operations West Bureau. Sgt. Omar Bazulto of the OWB said the event was a way of raising funds and reaching out to a community that hasn't always found it easy to trust the police.

"Money's tight throughout the city and we're trying to think of different ways to raise funds," Bazulto said.

This year marks the first that the OWB has sponsored such an event. Bazulto said the OWB remains uncertain if the department will be able to do so next year.

Officers were also on hand to give out free tickets for carnival rides, along with die-cast toy cars.

Carnival organizer Bob Swartwood said he grew up in the carnival business and that he spends 10 months of the year touring Southern California, with the carnival season wrapping up for him around Thanksgiving.

Swartwood said business is slower than usual and that the poor economy is hurting his bottom line. His growing list of operating expenses includes gas, oil, insurance and workers compensation taxes.

"We try to maintain prices and give people a bargain on the rides," he said. "The ticket prices have been the same for the last four or five years."

Lower revenues mean less money to split between his operation and the police sponsors, Swartwood said. Swartwood said that in the past he had trouble finding help, but now there is no shortage of workers, just a shortage of business.

Sacramento native Arnie Hallum, 25, said he has been working in the carnival business since he was 18 years old. He joined Swartwood's operation earlier in July and said that it is the best carnival company he has worked for so far.

Long late-night hours tearing down a carnival site prompted him to leave previous outfits, he said. With Swartwood, Hallum said he appreciates that tear-downs are a lot quicker.

"Plan on doing it 'til the day I die," Hallum said, adding that he loves meeting "different people from all kinds of different places."

A quarter-mile stretch of Washington Boulevard between Crenshaw Boulevard and 6th Avenue in West L.A. was closed to host the event.

Sgt. Bazulto said proceeds from the carnival will benefit the police Explorers program and fund improvements around the station.

Balzuto also acknowledged that this year's road closures were sure to bother some residents and that any needed logistical improvements will be made if the department sponsors the carnival next year.

"Lets face it, some [businesses] are going to get inconvenienced," said Balzuto.

Therese Green, who operates a small cafe on Washington Boulevard called Eureka, said she came to work last week to discover street closures in place and event staff setting up carnival rides and booths. Later that night a dinner party complained to her they had trouble finding parking nearby, she said.

"To my knowledge, this was an LAPD event. I got no notice, period," Green said.

Street closures also interrupted regularly scheduled trash services and forced her to pay $60 to have them return for a pick-up. Green said she had filed a complaint with L.A. Councilman Herb Wesson's office.

Green said that receipt sales were down by about a third on Saturday.

The Sunday beach outing Kelly Duhon and her grandson Shawn Duhon had planned quickly got changed once Shawn heard there was a carnival in town. But in spite of cooler than normal weather and many rides and booths with food and prizes, a tight budget meant they would have to cut their time at the carnival short.

Still, Kelly Duhon said she was glad to see a carnival sprout up along Washington Boulevard. Duhoan said growing up in the area was pretty tough for her as a kid, so it was nice to have something fun for kids to do.

"I give it a 'B,'" Duhon said, adding that she would have liked to have paid less for ride tickets.

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