The 1950s brought spectacular growth to Anaheim. More then a boom, the sudden growth was considered to be an explosion.
In the early portion of 1952, the Department slightly increased in size, having twenty-one officers and one secretary-matron to provide service to Anaheim's new population of 17,267. Public utilities and city facilities had to be enlarged to meet the needs of the growing industrial and residential community.
In 1954, reconstruction of the police facility in City Hall was begun to meet the growing need for larger police quarters.
Construction also began on a project that would forever change Anaheim. Approximately one mile southwest of the downtown area, 180 acre of orange groves and a few acres of walnut trees were cleared as a man named Walt Disney began building a new style family entertainment center. As Mr. Disney's crews labored to complete the new park within a one-year period, Anaheim officials worked to increase city resources to meet the demands, which would be facing them soon.
In 1955... Levis were on sale for $2.79 a pair, a brand new 2 door Oldsmobile 88 was available for $2,465 at the Crowell Motor Company, a Frigidaire refrigerator could be obtained for $299 and coffee was 79 cents a pound. New businesses and people moved to Anaheim, requiring more policemen to protect them. The Anaheim Police Department had doubled in size to forty-two Policemen and three Secretary-Matrons. As the city prepared for the opening day of Disneyland, Anaheim Police continued the day-to-day operations of keeping Anaheim safe. Among the many activities throughout the city, houses were burglarized, checks were forged, pedestrians were robbed and Motor Officer Dale Wilcox narrowly escaped death when his motorcycle collided with a locomotive at Vermont and Olive Streets while pursuing a speeding vehicle. Sunday, July 17, 1955 arrived with great fanfare as Disneyland was introduce to the world. Thousands of people converged on the city to be the first to visit the 'happiest place on earth', bringing with them vehicles which caused "the worst traffic mess we've ever seen," as expressed by one Police official.
Lines of cars more than two miles long stretched "bumper to bumper on all roads leading to Disneyland, creating major traffic jams and short tempers as people waited in 87-degree temperature. " Extra Anaheim policemen and Highway Patrolmen were placed on duty to control traffic and deal with the additional safety responsibilities associated with Disneyland. Cars lined Harbor Boulevard from the entrance to the park to Katella Avenue. Many parked overnight waiting admission to the park. Police were kept busy looking for "stolen" vehicles, which were merely misplaced in the large Disneyland parking lot. Children were lost in the area of the park and an all-points bulletin was issued to be on the lookout for a 16 year-old boy who ran away from Utah to see Disneyland. A tired and frazzled police force continued to provide service to the area and the entire community.
When asked by the Anaheim Bulletin to comment of the police activity, Captain Tommy Taylor answered, "Don't ask me how many cars we had from Disneyland yesterday...don't even lead up to it."
By week's end, the Anaheim Police Department was credited with preventing even the slightest traffic accident and were experienced and prepared to handle future summer traffic associated with the park as Disneyland continued to average 40,000 visitors a day. (Note: admission to the park was $2 per adult.)
By 1956, the size of the department had grown to 53 sworn police officers and provided for additional positions of advancement and promotions. Chief Stephenson was assisted by his sole Captain, Tommy Taylor, who oversaw the Patrol Division. Although a separate Traffic Bureau had not been designed, three motorcycle officers worked out of the Patrol Bureau enforcing traffic laws and facilitated the smooth control of traffic throughout this now rapidly growing city. Also included in the department structure were five lieutenants, seven Sergeants, one Identification Officer, five Policewomen, four Detectives and twenty-four Patrolmen.
The population had now jumped to 43,820. Although the population rose steadily, the crime rate remained exceptionally low. Routine crimes, such as thefts and minor burglaries, were investigated by patrol officers. If the need arose, the patrol officer, who was self-taught in the basics of crime scene preservation, would pick up a field fingerprint kit from the police station and return to the crime scene for processing. On the occasion when a more serious crime was committed, Captain Thomas Taylor or Lieutenant Forrest Wolverton would respond to the crime scene for processing.
Major crimes such as robbery, rape, felony assault and murder were investigated by specialists from the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Forrest Wolverton was a uniformed Lieutenant who was known throughout the department as "the check man." Lieutenant Wolverton worked mainly on fraudulent related check crimes in order to pacify the local business community at a time when even the smallest 'no-account' or 'overdrawn' check was a crime. The responsibility of fingerprinting and photographing arrested individuals lay on the Desk Sergeant or the arresting officer himself, time permitting. Once a week, Captain Taylor and Lt. Wolverton alternated developing the mug shots in a small department photo developing room. In April of 1956, Officers Harold Bastrup and Carlos Brown were selected to work as Anaheim's first full time Detectives. Finding a work area for these new Detectives in the already crowded police facility was not an easy task for Chief Stephenson. A room in the rear of the Claudina Street police station was also used as the report writing and briefing room.
The Anaheim City Jail was located in a two cell self-contained building behind the police station at City Hall. Only males could be incarcerated in one of the small cells. The second cell, previously used to house women, was now being used as the department storage area for items such as evidence and property.
Females arrested for violations of the law had to be incarcerated at the Orange County Jail. Up until this point maintenance of evidence was not a major concern for either Anaheim Police officials of the courts alike. In cases of major crimes, evidence was collected by Identification Technicians from the Orange County Sheriff's Department and stored them for later use in court. In less serious crimes, Anaheim Police Officers collected their evidence and stored it in the twelve foot by twenty-foot female cell. With the assignment of new Detectives, the preservation of evidence became a concern. Initially, the new Detectives stored evidence in their desks, but recognizing their limitations, Detective Bastrup and his new partner Detective Norm Cook coordinated a new property booking policy and arranged for the reconstruction of the property storage room, establishing the first organized Anaheim Police Property Bureau.
Seventy-eight people were working for the Anaheim Police Department in 1957, and Chief Stephenson hired his first Police Identification Officer, reassigning the responsibility of evidence preservation. Chief Stephenson made other changes in the department, including patrol operations. Instead of using the traditional two-man patrol cars at night, the department altered operations to one-man cars. This afforded the department the opportunity to field eight patrol cars per shift instead of the normal four cars without increasing manpower. The traffic squad was also increased from seven to nine officers. By 1959, the Department was now 130 members strong. Two Captains had been added one year earlier, bringing the total of Captains to three. Captain Russ Hamlyn was appointed to head of Operations Division, overseeing half of the department in both the Patrol and Traffic functions. An average of seven patrol units and three motorcycles were fielded on the day shift, and ten cars and three motors on the night shift. With the rapid growth on Anaheim, criminal activity and the need for increased protection also grew. Anaheim was no longer the small sleepy community it had been ten years earlier. Among the criminal activity taking place throughout the city was a case which brought the department national attention. On January 8, 1959, Officer Bill Lovett was on routine patrol when at 10:30 p.m. two young men entered Robert Irwin's Liquor Store at 937 S. Euclid. Armed with handguns, the two men proclaimed "This is a stick up!"
Obtaining $130 in cash, the suspect fled from the store in an old Ford as Irwin called the Police Department. Officer Lovett, driving on Ball Road approaching Magnolia, noticed two men pushing a car down a dark street. As Officer Lovett approached the men, one suspect asked Lovett for a push. Instead, Lovett ordered both men to get back into the car and keep their hands up. Realizing that the officer knew who they were, one of the men pulled a gun from his coat. As Lovett ordered him to drop the gun, the other suspect also drew a gun and opened fire at close range. Lovett jumped into a bush for cover and returned fire as both suspects emptied their guns at Lovett and ran off between houses in the area. Unhurt, Lovett radioed for assistance. Within minutes, over one hundred officers from throughout Orange County were at the scene searching for suspects. House to house searches were made and road blocks were established around the Anaheim area as officers armed with shotguns and sub-machine guns patrolled the normally quiet streets of Anaheim. As officers conducted their search, the suspects forced their way into an occupied home on the 9800 block of Kenmore Avenue. For over five hours, the suspects held the family hostage, even as police officers came to the door during the house to house search. At daybreak, the bandits forced the residents to drive them out of the area as the suspects disguised themselves by donning Navy uniforms.
One week later, acting on a tip, Detectives John Kerr, George Laughter, Richard Bowser, Sgt. Harold Bastrup and Garden Grove Police Captain Robert Cabot initiated a stake out of a house in Garden Grove where the suspects were to visit a girlfriend. At 7:45 in the evening, the suspects arrived at the house. As one suspect waited outside in the car, a second suspect walked into the house to pick up his female acquaintance. Detective Kerr, hiding in a hallway, attempted to apprehend one of the suspects as he walked towards a rear bedroom. Nineteen-year-old Charles Averill opened fire at Kerr with a .38 revolver, but missed him when Kerr ducked. Kerr returned fire, striking Averill in the abdomen. Averill ran to the living room, where he was confronted by Detective Laughter. Laughter began firing with a sub-machine gun. The suspect returned fire as he ran towards the door. Outside the house, the second suspect had left his car and took position on the lawn to cover his friend. In an exchange of gunfire outside of the house, Laughter was shot in the thigh by one of the suspects. Averill ran out of the house and made a run for the vehicle as Detective Bowser fired his shotgun. Although Bowser missed the suspect, he knew that the youth had been injured as he saw the suspect holding his stomach. Bastrup and Cabot joined in on the gunfight as Averill and the second suspect, twenty-year old Joseph Armstrong entered their vehicle and began to flee. As the suspects attempted to drive away, police continued to shoot at the escaping gunmen. A total of sixteen policemen continued to shoot at the vehicle as they made their getaway. At the end of the street, an approaching police unit drove towards the suspects and tried to cut them off. As a moving gun battle took place between the suspects and the oncoming patrol units, the suspects lost control of their car and struck a mailbox. Armstrong and Averill ran in opposite directions, with Armstrong running to the rear of a nearby residence and Averill disappearing into a tract of houses. In attempting to locate the suspects, Orange County's largest manhunt was initiated. Over 300 law enforcement officers from throughout the county combed the area. Roadblocks were set up strategically throughout the area. Police were able to apprehend Armstrong quickly, but the search for Averill continued until the following morning. In hiding from the police, Averill spent the night underneath a house in the 12400 block of Ninth Street in Garden Grove.
At 9:00a.m. Averill was apprehended after another brief chase. It was later discovered that both suspects were wanted for a string of armed robberies in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, along with the kidnapping of a local woman. All told, twenty-five robberies were cleared with the apprehension of these two dangerous men.
Another of the large local cases of this era was the gangland slaying of South Seas Restaurant owner Leslie Simpson and his wife Fern. The Simpsons were gunned down in front of their home just days before Mr. Simpson was to testify at the trial of three men accused of robbing his Manchester Avenue nightclub.
Les Simpson was killed by a shotgun blast and Mrs. Simpson lost both arms. Detectives John Kerr, Hal Bastrup and Norm Cook investigated this case for many years and were finally able to get enough evidence to make arrests. Joseph Rosoto, John Vlahovich and Donald Franklin received life sentences for their involvement.