OCEANSIDE — Most afternoons the apartment-lined streets of the Crown Heights neighborhood are busy with young moms pushing strollers and kids playing ball at the community resource center, but police Lt. Joe Young warns nothing good happens late at night or in the early morning.
“If kids are out and about unsupervised they are vulnerable and easy targets,” Young said.
Recently there have been two shootings and a stabbing in the neighborhood. Two of the crimes were fatal. The first shooting occurred on Division Street on March 2. Irving Jimenez, 20, was injured. The crime is under investigation.
On March 3, Samuel Quintana Zamudio, age 25, fatally stabbed. The crime occurred in the 200 block of Walsh Street. A 17-year-old suspect was arrested. It was determined that the stabbing was gang-related.
The shooting on March 11 was also fatal. The victim was 17-year-old Antonio Carachuri-Perez. The crime occurred in the 400 block of Grant Street. A 16-year-old juvenile suspect was arrested. The shooting was also gang-related.
“We do not tolerate gang activity,” Young said. “Our outlook is to know who is involved and develop a strategy to prevent them from doing anything to harm innocent folks who are not involved but become victims. We can’t have that.”
Efforts to deter crime are coordinated among numerous city departments. Code enforcement efforts were stepped up before the recent crimes occurred. Community Development Block Grant funds paid for an additional code enforcement officer to proactively monitor code violations in the Crown Heights neighborhood. Actions include trimming shrubbery, towing illegally parked vehicles, removing graffiti and lighting dim streetlights with brighter bulbs, all in an effort to keep streets and sidewalks clearly visible and deter crime.
“The Fire Department is also involved in inspections of properties,” Young said. “Housing is working with the resource center to continue to provide services for younger kids and a safe place for older kids to go after school and on weekends.”
There is also a heightened police presence in the Crown Heights neighborhood.
“It mainly suppresses any violent activity,” Young said. “It also reinforces a safe feeling in the community. It shows we’re aware who’s doing what and we can prevent more violence from happening.”
“The ultimate goal is to rid the city of any gang activity,” Young added. “Realistically it takes a lot of resources over a long period of time. We have great relationships with local, state and federal agencies to assist us.”
Community grassroots efforts are an important part of the solution. Young said police have talked to parents and reminded them that their children and teens need watchful adult supervision.
Young said the recent spike in violent crimes has prompted parents to be more vigilant and make sure their children are under supervision including during their daily walk to and from school.
“I’m scared,” said a woman from the Crown Heights neighborhood. “A 17-year-old died three blocks from my house. Kids say they’re feeling pressured. The neighborhood is willing to do anything to help.”
Following the first shooting community members and city employees took part in a unity walk. Councilman Jack Feller was part of the walk.
Feller said the walk was prompted by a group of women who attended a weekly Zumba class. The March 2 shooting occurred shortly after the evening class ended. The following week the women and city staff walked from Crown Heights Community Resource Center to the County Club Senior Center where the Zumba class is held.
The purpose of the walk was to show that city officials and neighborhood residents do not tolerate violent crimes.
Feller said he also saw the walk as a claim to a little bit of “me time” and camaraderie the class allowed the women.
“It touched me that these women who are working and taking care of young families were getting relief with this Zumba class,” Feller said.
“My hope is for a calm to be regained,” Feller added. “They need to be reassured that we as a city are trying to make a peaceful life for them. They can help us by reporting the bad guys.”