A crowd gathered at Hollenbeck Community Police station in Boyle Heights, across the Southland and all over the country Tuesday for National Night Out, a show of neighborhood solidarity against crime and fear.
The event aimed to reinforce bonds between police and community. Although city officials and the LAPD touted Boyle Height's reduced crime rate, some residents say more work can still be done.
The crowd included Hollenbeck Police, church leaders, reformed gang-members, grandparents and their grandchildren, who all happily feasted on free grilled hot dogs. The event also included a peace march, and booths from nonprofits, community groups and Councilman Jose Huizar.
“Right now crime is at an all time low,” said Officer Roger Medina of the Hollenbeck station.
Boyle Heights resident Martha Pena agreed with Medina but is still concerned about drug use in the area. She and husband Robert Pena are pastors at Victory Outreach Church and run a recovery home for addicts.
“The main problem right now is Crystal Meth,” she said. “The younger generation are doing meth.”
Robert also said gang-activity was still lingering in Boyle Heights. He cited the White Fence, Varrio Nuevo Estrada and Big Hazard gangs, as well as other groups, that still cause trouble in the area.
“There are so many gangs that I can't possibly name them all,” Robert Pena said. “With gangs comes shootings.”
There are more than 34 documented gangs and 5,500 gang members in Boyle Heights, according to Captain Anita Ortega, who is the senior officer at Hollenbeck.
Ortega added that despite these numbers, crimes such as homicides have dropped off significantly in the last few years due to support from the community. Ortega credited events like National Night Out to help solidify trust between police and Boyle Heights residents.
“Hollenbeck has built trust with the community members,” Ortega said. “It's been a gradual change in the last 15 years and we want to reinforce that relationship.”