By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The day after the Laurel and Hardy park shooting, the Silver Lake Improvement Association held its monthly meeting at Councilman Eric Garcetti’s field office. The main topic of discussion: the escalation of the gang crime in the area. It was a relatively new topic for the neighborhood group, which was formed to fight graffiti and promote activities like the Sunset Junction Street Festival and the Silver Lake Film Festival, not contend with drive-bys. Their conclusion: more police.
“Because we are so aggressive at painting out graffiti, a lot of people didn’t realize the extent of what was going on. We do take the situation seriously. It goes back to the broken-window attitude: If you let the stuff fester, it is going to get worse,” said Rusty Millar, a longtime resident and recently elected neighborhood council member for region four, who is active in cleaning up local graffiti. “We have talked to the cops about this. People know they can get drugs there. It will only become a priority when someone politically thinks it is a priority.” ‰
Cops say help is on the way and that in reality Rampart Division’s killings are down from 150 10 years ago to 32 so far this year. Even so, that might not translate into immediate relief for Millar, Ruiz and others. LAPD’s Rampart Division is more organized today than in the days when former Officer Rafael Perez shook down local gang members. Its CRASH unit has been disbanded and renamed the Gang Impact Team, and its officers, mostly new to the division, are divvied up into three units: the special-enforcement unit, the gun-apprehension team and the gang-reality-narcotic-enforcement detail. Plus, officers, they say, are increasing patrols to tackle the 30 gangs that call the Rampart area home.
Even so, some say that, with all this reorganizing, gang intelligence has been thin and has not translated into street-wise policing, at least not here. Anti-gang officers say that it is very difficult to get to the bottom of gang killings. Relatives and neighbors fear reprisal if they talk, especially in an area like this one where Chicano, Latino and Latin American immigrants, generally distrustful of police, make up the largest ethnic group at 43 percent of the population.
Until the gang war is resolved, residents around Marathon and Vendome fear that they will be at the wrong place at the wrong time when bullets start flying. And that the violence that erupted over the Labor Day weekend is far from being over. Rangel’s friend agrees. “It is going to escalate,” he said.
Residents, though, especially relatively recent homeowners, say they will continue to improve the area. “People are investing in this area,” said Froiland. “People enjoy living here. They will do what they can to continue to make it the place they would like it to be. They are proud of what they have and what they have done.”
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