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MAD Residents Voice Concerns with Anti-Gang Efforts

February 3rd, 2010 by Terry Miller

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Many Applaud Duarte for Not Joining Monrovia Gang Injunction

Residents from Monrovia, Arcadia and Duarte (MAD) and other nearby areas crowded into a standing room only meeting in Duarte Tuesday evening on the heels of two new shootings last week in Duarte and the unincorporated area of Monrovia. Outrage at the recent violence has come to a head following concern that strict policies enacted by local law enforcement have either failed to quell the violence or and/or had other negative effects. The shootings wounded two black men, and prompted a call for answers from authorities, a fact that resulted in a meeting well-attended by vociferous community members.

Capt. Joe Fennell of Sheriff’s Temple Station addressed about 200 concerned residents during the meeting at Maxwell Elementary School in Duarte on Tuesday night and attempted to reassure the general public that the police are aware of the citizens’ concerns and are working within the confines of the law to apprehend those responsible for gang related activities.

The shootings which took place over two days last week, wounded two black men. Officials suspect Latino gang members were responsible in both of the shootings.

In an unrelated incident, shots were fired at two homes, including one with three African-American occupants, but authorities have no descriptions of the shooters.

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The most recent shooting, in the 200 block of Broderick Avenue in an incorporated area between Monrovia and

Duarte at about 7:30 p.m. Friday left a black male with no gang ties wounded.

A drive-by shooting by suspected Latino gang members at about 9:15 p.m. Thursday in Monrovia wounded a black male as he walked on Magnolia.

Another drive-by shooting took place on Pamela Road in the unincorporated part of Monrovia.

Gang violence besieged the Monrovia-Duarte area in late 2007 and early 2008, when four people were killed in gang-related shootings, including 17-year-old Sammantha Salas, who had no gang ties.

The meeting was vociferous at times with residents thanking officers for taking the time to explain, but showing their dissatisfaction in no uncertain terms.

One resident claimed she had a gun pointed at her head during a recent probation sweep of her son and held up a letter of complaint to Lee Baca she had penned. Duarte councilwoman and former mayor Lois Gaston stood up and offered to deliver her letter personally to Baca. Probation sweeps are a part of gang suppression in an effort to keep those on parole in compliance with the court orders.

Many individuals spoke of their rights being repeatedly violated. Some claimed that officers frequently hound and target certain individuals based on the color of their skin and/or their clothing. Many professional black men and women in the audience agreed and demanded explanations. Capt. Fennell said he’d personally look into any and all complaints against his officers.

Resident Earl Parker, 48, of Duarte expressed his disapproval of the police tactics and particularly of the amount of time it takes for officers to arrive at any particular scene or disturbance. Parker said it’s not even a gang problem anymore, “it’s racial” he said. Many spectators agreed with Parker’s assessment saying that those gangs are gone and people just use the name and now most of the violence is simply racially motivated.

Another shooting on Saturday targeted two homes in a nearby unincorporated county area, including one with three black occupants. No one was hurt in that particular incident.

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Capt. Fennell told the 200 plus people at the meeting that vehicle has been linked to those shootings and deputies have several suspects- however no arrests have been made. “It’s just a matter of time before we apprehend all suspects.” Fennell asserted.

On hand at the meeting was Duarte Public Safety Director Brian Villalobos who said sheriff’s deputies have made progress in fighting gangs but many in the audience did not agree.

Monrovia’s recently imposed gang injunction was brought up repeatedly during the two hour meeting and residents applauded Duarte for not following suit. It (the gang injunction) was opposed overwhelmingly by meeting attendees. The belief is that racial profiling is a common occurrence with police in Duarte and Monrovia. Fennell addressed each concern individually and gave his card to those wanting to follow up on any such allegations. He assured residents that any complaint is taken seriously and will be dealt with appropriately.

Since Dec. 1, 2009, deputies have arrested 41 suspected gang members, including eight of the top 10 most wanted gang members, he said.

Monrovia obtained a gang injunction in December against two local gangs: the Duroc Crips, a black gang, and Monrovia Nuevo Varrio, a Latino gang.

Duarte resident Douglas Moreland spoke repeatedly about being harassed and profiled racially by police in Monrovia. While he applauded the police and in particular the Capt. for setting up the community meeting, he said more needed to be done and less harassment. To this there was an immediate round of applause.

A third gang, Duarte Eastside, was not included in the injunction because it operates primarily in Duarte. Duarte officials declined to participate in the injunction and have instead touted other methods of curbing gang violence.

Villalobos said Tuesday that Duarte city officials were not convinced an injunction would effectively stifle gang violence and had “the potential to alienate people.”

Listening intently to the speakers and the concerned citizens was Jeanette Chavez, whose 16 year old daughter Sammantha Salas was killed in a gang shooting in 2008. Chavez, wiped the tears from her eyes as one man spoke of his families concerns of safety for their children.

While the tone of the meeting was tense at times, officials and residents agreed that more needed to be done. One suggestion was that of a community barbeque/street party where officers actually get to know the residents and know them on a personal level. “Fear and mistrust,” as one resident put it is “dividing our community.”

One speaker said the police needed to “get out from behind their tinted windows” and walk the street again and “get to know the residents of the community.”

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