Photo of LAPD Helicopter by Art Torres (2014).
Photo of LAPD Helicopter by Art Torres (2014).

Photo by Art Torres
Photo by Art Torres
When Boyle Heights residents heard shots fired in their neighborhood three days in the same week last month, many of them took to Facebook.

Comments flooded the All Roads Lead to Boyle Heights Facebook page after news of the frequent shootings were posted.

Sonia Alexandra Lopez Cisneros posted: “I heard the shooting,” while Letty Cobian wrote, “Sad thing if anyone innocent gets hurt.”

Jeanette Valle said, “Wow!! So sad…prayers to the families affected and that there may be peace in the streets.”

It’s s not uncommon to see reactions posted by residents on social media platforms, which have become new age community forums.

Two homicides and five other incidents involving shots fired all during a six-week period this year were enough to cause concern over increased crime in the region for some Boyle Heights residents.

The first homicide victim was Oscar Alberto Felix. He was gunned down at his residence on the 600 block of North Fickett St. Jan. 17, in what Hollenbeck police detectives are calling a gang-related shooting.

The latest shooting incident left one man injured and caused the death of Pasadena resident Jesus Manuel Nunez, 22, after an argument broke-out outside El Troquero Bar on the 2000 block of Cesar Chavez Ave early Monday morning. Other incidents involved vandalism, a discharged fire arm, shots fired at an unoccupied house and aggravated assault.

But even as these incidents have caused concern over increased crime, Los Angeles is enjoying some of the lowest crime rates since the late 1960s, according to statistics released by the mayor’s office last month.

The report shows 251 murders in 2013, down from 299 in 2012. Rapes dropped from 936 to 639 and overall, violent crime is down 12 percent from last year, according to the report.

The drop in crime from 2012 to 2013 reflects a more than 10-year trend enjoyed by the city and by Boyle Heights.

According to Captain Martin A. Baeza, the commanding area officer for the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Division, violent crime in 2013 was down 18 percent in his division overall, compared to the prior year.

Homicides dropped from 19 to 17, rapes from 25 to 16, robberies from 343 to 269 and aggravated assaults dropped from 466 in 2012 to 396 last year in Hollenbeck, according to LAPD reports.

Baeza cites several reasons why crime has dropped in the community over the last decade that include focusing police resources, community involvement, youth programs and anonymous crime reporting.

“The only way we’re going to curb any type of violence is by working with the community and to put the guys that are doing this type of activity in jail,” said Baeza.

As for the recent shootings, Baeza calls the incidents a spike in crime and not an upward trend.

Although some residents feel the recent spike is significant, other community members don’t see the shootings as anything out of the ordinary, and feel safe in their neighborhoods.

Boyle Heights resident Florencia Nuñez has lived on the 700 block of Fickett St. for more than 13 years and says she did not hear about the shooting on her block last month.

“Drug activity and other crimes don’t happen just in Boyle Heights. Crime happens everywhere; even in richer areas,” said Nuñez.

While Nuñez calls her neighborhood safe, others refer to it as “hot,” or dangerous because of its community violence, a stigma Baeza wants to dispel.

He says it’s important to address community members’ concerns to provide them with accurate information and reduce fear, especially when a cluster of crime hits the neighborhood.

To this end, the Hollenbeck Police Station will host a Town Hall Meeting Thursday, Feb. 13, from 6-8 p.m. in the station’s community room.

“I want the community to know that we have to work in partnership to keep our neighborhoods safe,” said Baeza, citing that partnership is key to continuing the downward trend of violent crime in Boyle Heights. “We can’t do this alone.”

Residents can report crime through WeTip by calling 1-800-78-CRIME, or visit www.wetip.com.

To report a crime directly to the LAPD, visit www.lapdonline.org for a list of phone numbers, or call 1-800-LAPD 24-7.

Both phone numbers can be called 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
 

Gus Ugalde

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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