LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A recent security breach at LA City Hall has underscored ongoing safety concerns at the iconic building.
A transient managed to jump over a counter Friday afternoon and vandalize the office of a city councilman.
Councilman Mitchell Englander says he feels the building is an easy target.
“Was this a wake-up call? Not for me…It’s a scary situation, but it’s almost predictable. In fact, I have predicted that we are a target,” Englander said. “I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner, but I was grateful it wasn’t worse.”
The transient walked through the Spring Street entrance, which is supposed to be secured by key card access and an officer.
The suspect then went up the stairs to the fourth floor, where he hopped a desk and wandered into Councilman Mike Bonin’s office. He used a Sharpie marker to write, “The Cartel is after me,” before he was arrested for vandalism and being under the influence.
Employees were so jilted they set off a panic alarm button.
A representative for Bonin’s office says it doesn’t look like they were targeted specifically.
Mayor Eric Garcetti called the incident “unacceptable.”
“Luckily, this individual wasn’t armed, but that could have been a much more tragic situation,” the mayor said.
Garcetti hopes metal detectors and extra personnel at public entrances will help tighten access. There’s only one metal detector at one of the five public entrances to City Hall.
“People can sneak behind a city employee as they come in. Or, if it’s a crowd, not everybody always gets asked, so we’re going to make sure that we review this and make sure that all of our city employees are trained not to let somebody else in,” the city leader said.
The mayor mentioned there’s been ongoing action to beef up security at City Hall.
“It is critical for us to keep all our government buildings and employees safe, so not only was it an unacceptable breach, it’s something I’ve been looking at since I became mayor – to make City Hall both open and accessible and welcoming, but also to make sure that we don’t endanger the public, that we don’t endanger the employees,” Garcetti said.
Englander agreed that officials would like to tighten security while still keeping the city hub inviting: “We want to make sure that when people come in the front door they’re greeted in a nice manner but in a secure manner. You’re not going through TSA, you’re not going through an airport, but it is a really critical building because of a lot of the activities that happen here.”