By NATHAN SOLIS
HIGHLAND PARK — Several LAPD officers stood before a room of concerned Highland Park residents on Thursday night. It was a difficult conversation for everyone at this forum on gangs and violent crime, with a series of recent neighborhood shootings fresh on people’s minds.
In the last seven weeks there have been 13 shootings reported in Highland Park, with 9 people shot, according to the LAPD Northeast Division. Of those 9 shooting victims, 5 were known to have gang affiliations, including the Avenues and HLP gangs.
Tony Oddo, Patrol Commanding Officer of the LAPD’s Northeast Division, started off the evening by saying that the shootings are his top priority, with additional resources being utilized by the division.
Since February, there have been approximately 105 arrests in Highland Park but none involved the shooters. A few breaks have lead to a possible accomplice in one of the shootings who is currently in police custody, officers said. But it will take more than arrests to suppress the violence, Oddo said.
“We cannot arrest our way out of this situation,” said Oddo, who championed the concept of an involved community that communicates with police.
Questions from residents ranged from foot patrols and helicopter activity to graffiti and outreach.
Gemma Marquez asked, “Why is the LAPD not in the schools talking to students? I’m sorry, but we’re supposed to visit the dentist two times a year. Why can’t an officer do the same for students?”
Maggie Darett-Quiroz is surrounded by gang members in Glassell Park. She says that veteran gang members who are coming out of prison are ordering children in the community to do illegal activities on Drew Street.
Highland Park resident Richard Marquez says that many of the shootings may be related to gangs, but are also connected to drug dealers fighting over turf. “We have a meth problem in the area,” said Marquez.
One Mount Washington resident said that drug dealers took over a public stairway on her street.
Other residents are concerned that gangs are paying homeless to commit crimes and others still inquired about gang injunctions in the area.
Lieutenant John Cook applauds the use of gang injunctions, which are a court-issued restraining orders that prohibits gang members from congregating with other known gang members. There will be a Gang Injunction Forum hosted by the Highland Park Neighborhood Council on April 30.
Oddo said there has been three weeks of approved overtime for the Gang Impact Teams in Highland Park. But Oddo cautioned that these resources will not last forever.
“I’m begging you to give me information,” Oddo pleaded with the room of residents.
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis’ stories, reviews and photos at Avenue Meander.