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Police tackle northwest gang problem

November 23, 2011
  • Glendale Police Dept. helicopter pilots looks to access 550 N. Brand Blvd. via the roof during training exercise on Thursday, October 13, 2011. The scenario included shots fired and hostages. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Glendale Police Dept. helicopter pilots looks to access…

Police officials say they plan to boost their presence in a Northwest Glendale neighborhood due to an alarming jump in crime attributed mostly to gang and drug activity.

Speaking to an audience of about 120 people at a community meeting Tuesday night, Police Lt. Bruce Fox said the department plans to boost patrols in the neighborhood bounded by Victory Boulevard, the Golden State (5) Freeway, Sonora Avenue and Allen Avenue, which has become a “buyer’s market” for drugs. And where there’s drug activity, gang-related incidents have followed.

“There are all kinds of things going on in this neighborhood that we really want to sink our teeth into,” said Fox, who cited an increase in vandalism, theft and assaults in the area over the last six months.

Police plan to use overtime to boost patrols in the area since recent budget cuts have constrained resources and staffing. The city saw across-the-board cuts this summer as officials worked to shrink an $18-million budget gap.

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But even with more boots on the ground, officials won’t be able to put a dent in the crime issue without residents getting involved, Fox said.

“We really need more eyes on the street,” he said.

But in a neighborhood where many are wary to call police, that can be a challenge.

“A lot of these people are afraid to call police,” said Officer Josh Luna, who grew up in the Riverside-Rancho neighborhood. “They need to step forward. That’s really the only way.”

In addition to the drug and crime issues, incarcerated gang members have encouraged others outside prison to amplify recruitment efforts in Glendale, police warned.

Luna called for attendees to start a Neighborhood Watch group, which would be a first for the area. Police use the number of watch groups as one measure of their community involvement.

There are about 75 watch groups in Glendale, said Sgt. John Gilkerson, a significant increase from the 25 to 35 groups in years past.

“When good people do nothing, [crime] blossoms so quickly,” Fox said.

He’d also like to see officers out of cars and on bicycles and motorized Segways in order to better integrate with the community, Fox added.

Officials on Tuesday also outlined a plan to clean up the neighborhood. They encouraged people to use the city’s Adopt-a-Block program, which provides cleanup tools to those that commit to designated areas for a year.

Luna also announced a neighborhood cleanup event organized by police planned for early next month.

“Does it leave a clean canvas for vandalism? Yeah it does, but we’ll be back to clean it up,” Luna said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated an earlier version.

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