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US Navy warns sailors about San Pedro crime

July 28, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Navy Week has been a hit, with big crowds turning out to see the visiting ships and sailors. But a U.S. Navy warning to the crews about San Pedro crime has clouded the event.

The USS Abraham Lincoln alone has 2,800 sailors and is expected to draw approximately 10,000 visitors a day.

San Pedro's Historic Downtown and Arts District is packed with antique stores, restaurants, and other boutique-like shops. When the owners of those businesses heard about Navy Week and the crowds it was expected to bring, they were overjoyed.

"We were very excited and in 24 hours put together a program to greet the sailors on the USS Abraham Lincoln," said Scott Gray, owner of the Maritime Research Center and Nautical Shop.

But that small-town enthusiasm was dealt a blow thanks to a map highlighting three sections of San Pedro that the U.S. Navy calls "High Drug Use/Distribution Areas." The Navy distributed the maps to the thousands of sailors coming ashore.

Included in the Navy's drug-zone is the San Pedro Historic Downtown and Arts District.

"We were totally surprised and shocked, it's totally inaccurate," said Camilla Townsend, President/CEO of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce.

Townsend walked through one of the Navy's highlighted areas, pointing out the businesses and the private security officers that bike the streets there, including the Port Police Headquarters.

"The district that is marked as off-limits is one of the safest areas," said Townsend.

"At no time did we tell our sailors that San Pedro was off-limits," said Lt. Cmdr. Steve Curry from the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Curry says the crime information came from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which tells sailors to take extra caution in those spots, and that it is a standard operating procedure.

"We were provided that information and that's what we provided to our sailors, just to ensure their safety and well being," said Curry.

San Pedro business owners are still excited about Navy Week and are hoping it may become an annual event.

Andrew Silber, who owns the Whale and Ale Pub, said business is up this week, but maybe not as up as it could have been.

"We've certainly been busier than we'd normally be, and a lot of that is to do with the Navy being in town," said Silber. "How busy would it have been if this map didn't exist? I couldn't tell you. There's no way of finding out."

The public affairs office said no offense was intended and the sailors are having a great time in Southern California. The ships are slated to depart on Sunday.

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