Long Beach

Second Long Beach elementary school plagued with suspected prostitution 

Parents at Colin Powell Academy say suspected sex workers operate feet away from campus.

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School pickup at Colin Powell Academy in Long Beach comes with a lot of caution from parents, who say increased prostitution activity is making them feel unsafe.  

“My kids don’t walk to school,” said Erica Lopez, a mother of a student at the school. “We live close by, but I wouldn’t even walk myself.”

Lopez says suspected sex workers wearing close to nothing are too close to the elementary school near Long Beach Boulevard, and police have done nothing to stop the problem.

“[Police] don’t do anything,” said Lopez. “Sometimes the prostitution gets cleared out, but then they find a way back.”

Despite the long history of prostitution, the school district said in a statement that it has "not received any safety concerns from parents regarding the safety of the Starr King or Colin Powell."

"While there have been concerns raised about sex work and homelessness in the surrounding area, these issues have not directly impacted the safety of our school grounds," the school said.

Parents argue it’s happening right next to the school grounds and say that they have shared photos of how close kids are to activity along with used contraceptives left next to the school.

“[Long Beach Unified School District] School Safety conducts safe passage patrols at every campus and promptly offers assistance upon request,” said the statement from Long Beach Unified.

Parents say because a state loitering law that used to allow police to arrest people standing around with the intent to solicit was repealed during the pandemic, they believe it's hampering the police's ability to act.

“Our North Division officers have maintained a presence and visibility in the area,” wrote Long Beach Police.

City Councilman Al Austin, who represents the district where the school sits, tells NBC Los Angeles that he “has been and will continue working with our community partners and law enforcement officials to develop effective strategies to deter illegal activities around Colin Powell Academy.”

Councilwoman Joni Ricks-Oddie, representing the district where Starr King Elementary is, did not respond to NBC Los Angeles' request for comment.

Mayor Rex Richardson, who represented the district as a councilman before becoming mayor, lived next to the area along Long Beach Boulevard for 9 years. He says that there is “no shortcut solution.”

Richardson explains the city had been cracking down on nuisance motels on Long Beach Boulevard starting in 2018, adding that those motels have attracted prostitution for decades.

As a councilman, Richardson said he worked at installing security cameras and more lighting in the area. As mayor, he is working with other cities along Long Beach Boulevard like Compton and Lynwood to address the problem better.

Parents at Powell and Starr King elementary schools say the immediate focus should be on the sidewalks around the schools and making them safe for children. 

“It’s not safe! Kids walk here, and it’s really sad,” said Lopez.

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