A community rich in diversity and an outstanding workforce are two reasons why the newest commanding officer of the Olympic Division is excited to be assigned to the neighborhood.
“Olympic is a great place,” proclaims Capt. Vito Palazzolo—a 25-year L.A. Police Dept. veteran—as he sits down for an interview.
“The best part about it is I’ve got a really good group of officers, which makes my job a lot easier. I don’t have to push or prod to get them to do their work; they’re already on it. The other part is the community aspect of Olympic, it’s been fantastic.”
Capt. Palazzolo joins Capt. Julian Melendez to oversee 270 officers working an area 6.2 square miles wide. The area includes portions of Windsor Square and Larchmont Village as well as much of Koreatown and the Byzantine Pico corridor.
When asked what challenges he’s identified in his first few months on the job, Palazzolo returned to the topic of diversity: “We have three or four cultural centers in a very small area. Sometimes it presents challenges because different groups don’t understand each other, but it also represents opportunities.”
Not to shy away from an opportunity, Capt. Palazzolo says he’s enjoyed the chance to get out and meet with people from all of the different communities in Olympic. “It’s an enriching experience, and making me a better person,” he says.
In fact, it’s easy to see why he’s uniquely prepared for the challenges that come with a culturally-diverse area.
Capt. Palazzolo moved to the U.S. from Italy with his mother and father in 1973 and settled in the Highland Park area. They arrived with only five suitcases and $500 between them. Because of this, he says, he is acutely aware of the plight of the immigrant.
“I remember we landed on a Saturday at LAX, and on Tuesday morning I was enrolled in school; by Wednesday my parents were off to work. My father worked in a factory and my mother in a sweatshop.
“That’s the kind of jobs immigrants take on, which is not so different from today,” says Palazzolo.
“The reason we moved is the same reason immigrants still move here: freedom and opportunity. People who come here from other countries don’t come to be slackers, they come to be useful. They want to be valuable members of a community.”
See something, say something
Shifting the conversation to neighborhood crime, Palazzolo says what is affecting the Larchmont communities is not too much different than what is going on in the rest of the city: “Crime rate in Larchmont/Windsor Square looks pretty good this year. There is a slight increase, but compared to the rest of Olympic it’s not a great concern.”
He says his number one concern for the area is Part 1 Crime: “I would be lying if I said it was anything else. It’s slightly higher than it was last year.”
Part 1 Crime is divided into two categories: violent crimes and property crimes. This includes, most notably, robberies and burglaries. But “in that area, the most frequent problem is property crime,” says Palazollo. Such incidents often involve opportunists looking for something easy to steal, so stay alert.
He advises residents to remain diligent with locking doors and setting alarms, and encourages neighbors to take a more active role in monitoring their streets and reporting suspicious behavior.
“Don’t follow or get in a situation of confrontation with anyone,” says Palazzolo. “Residents can help by keeping an eye on their streets, taking pictures and gathering information on suspicious behavior. Then call us.” He says sometimes the best information the police get comes from residents who see something suspicious and report it.
Remember: you can submit an anonymous tip to the LAPD, 24 hours a day, by phone at 800-222-TIPS.