There are few residents on the Palos Verdes Peninsula as involved in crime fighting and prevention as Rancho Palos Verdes resident Gail Lorenzen, a petite, highly informed and staunchly communicative conduit to those who go about keeping us out of harm’s way.
As Neighborhood Watch Volunteer Coordinator for Rancho Palos Verdes for nearly 28 years, Lorenzen, a former marketing executive, donates as much time and effort toward fostering relationships between the sheriff’s department and the community as if she was a full-time professional.
“Since Neighborhood Watch was established, RPV has grown, but Part I Crimes have been reduced to about half of what they previously were,” Lorenzen said, referring to larceny, residential burglary and robberies, assault, grand theft auto and homicide.
“Our goal is to keep residents working together to fight crime and quality-of-life issues," said Lorenzen. "Our allegiance has been to our block captains, residents and support to the sheriff’s department.”
Her longtime husband Andy, retired Director of Engineering at Walt Disney Imagineering, is a stalwart supporter of his vivacious, busy wife. He attends community meetings with her and has become her partner in fighting crime.
“When Gail first started, she went to all these meetings and got rosters,” Andy Lorenzen said. “I created a database for the different areas and blocks and input all that information into a computer. When she does her bulletins, she bounces them off me to make sure they read right.”
In addition to her Neighborhood Watch role, Gail is an avid hiker and cyclist. She and Andy have cycled through France 24 times. They have biked through countries such as Canada, Ireland, England, New Zealand and Nova Scotia and circled Yellowstone, Vermont, Hawaii and cities like Boston, San Francisco as well as Southern California.
Additionally, the couple are passionate gardeners and cat lovers as showcased by their property filled with secret gardens, ponds, comfort nooks and an exotic puma sculpture uncharacteristically purchased by Andy to help create a tranquil place for Gail to unwind each night.
So, Gail has taken that kind of energy and put it to good use working with the sheriff’s department. A big motivator, she said, is her deep respect for the many law enforcement officers she works each day.
Capt. James Powers, one of the newer faces at the Lomita Sheriff station said he supports everything Gail is doing.
“Gail has been very effective with community policing concepts, specifically recruiting members of the community to partner with law enforcement,” Powers said. “It’s important for members of the community to be a set of eyes and ears and communicate with law enforcement. We educate one another and achieve a higher level of effectiveness, which makes our community a safer place.”
Additionally, law enforcement must listen to the community, and the community must also listen to law enforcement, Powers said.
When she first joined Neighborhood Watch, said Lorenzen, our sheriff department didn't have to deal with the myriad issues of today. She has quite a laundry list of examples including homelessness, social media incivility, active shooters, fake news, sexual harassment, cyber terrorism and opioid addiction.
“Law enforcement is a very difficult and dangerous job,” Lorenzen said. “They deal with many different races, cultures, ages and countries, but how often do you read about about the good and courageous things good cops do?”
But Lomita sherrif station Lt. Doug Kimura, who personally responds to calls for service, said working with Lorenzen on some of these issues “makes him feel like he is doing more to protect the community.”
Kimura said with the evolution of social media, criminals are using social media as tools to assist in crimes, meaning social media posts attract a lot of people to affluent Palos Verdes for the beaches and scenic hikes, and has made the Peninsula a target for crimes of opportunity, like car break-ins or burglaries.
“With Lorenzen as our partner, we can quickly disseminate important information to the residents and ask for their help,” Kimura said.
Lorenzen said she wants to put a stop to all that by working through NW programs to build trust. Block captains and law enforcement hold regular gatherings each month and as well as informal block parties. The program is supported by voluntary $5 donations.
“Every time we are given notice of a residential burglary that has just occurred, we network to the affected and surrounding areas, and ask residents to check their video cameras during a certain time frame, “ Lorenzen said. “The sheriff’s department then gets tips and photos more quickly, and right after the burglary.”
Lt. Jorge Juarez seconded that information. He said Lorenzen gets photos of cars and license plates from residents then relays them to the sheriff department for a swift work-up on the people or possible arrests.
Lorenzen said unlike some of the social media neighborhood apps, she is happy to report that no political or commercial information is exchanged during NW e-mails. NW is a hierarchical organization with residents reporting to block captains and assistant block captains, who report to area commanders who report to Lorenzen and NW’s Board of Directors.
And the NW program is a human-to-human endeavor.
“Safeless, soundless, sightless communication has bred less human contact,” Lorenzen said. It’s uncivilized and demeaning. I think it’s important some 60 percent of our block captains have been with us for over 15 years in RPV. They are the lifeblood of our organization. They’re the troops on the ground.”