OCEANSIDE — Eastside neighborhood residents met with Oceanside police officers to discuss their concerns about area crime on Sept. 24. Mayor Jim Wood, Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Councilman Rocky Chavez were also in attendance.
Residents candidly shared their worries about gang activity and graffiti at Joe Balderrama Park and Oceanside police stepped up with answers. Police Chief Frank McCoy promised residents there will be more police officers assigned to hunt down graffiti taggers, enforce curfew and target violent crimes thanks to grant funds. “We’ll have more police officers on the street to target specific issues you have raised,” McCoy said.
During the neighborhood meeting results from a door-to-door survey of 102 residents, conducted by the Eastside Neighborhood Association, were shared. Residents who took the survey reported feeling safer than last year. In response to the survey, 76 percent said that they felt safer to walk the street and 67 percent said they have noticed less drug and alcohol use in the park this year. More than half of the residents surveyed said they noticed neighborhood improvements, like community events held in the park.
More activities in the park, clean-up activities, curfew enforcement and more policing were marked as changes residents would like to see by 90 percent of those who responded.
The evening had chiefly good news, but residents did voice concerns. Many said the outdoor walled handball courts in the park are a magnet for gang activity.
Pamela Montanez, Joe Balderrama Recreation Center supervisor, said park and recreation staff members are addressing complaints by organizing more supervised activities on the handball courts and fencing off remote areas where gang members might gather. “We’re taking something negative and redirecting it,” Montanez said.
While residents requested more police supervision in the park, there were complaints that police have been patting down minors and repeatedly stopping law-abiding residents. One woman said she is starting to feel harassed after she and her husband have been stopped and questioned by police six times.
“Everything is not roses, we still have a lot of work to do,” McCoy said. He added that there has recently been an increase in gang activity and the department has responded by increasing police visibility to curtail crimes.
Oceanside police have been effective in keeping the crime rate down. The crime count this year is a low 17 crimes. McCoy said the crime rate has dropped 25 percent over the last three years and an additional 6.9 percent this year. “We have crime going in the right direction,” McCoy said.
The Eastside Neighborhood Association holds regular meetings with neighborhood policing officer Laura Flynn on the fourth Thursday of each month to discuss community safety issues.
Diane Strader has lived in the Eastside neighborhood one year and is one of the newer members of the Eastside Neighborhood Association. “I was so impressed with my first meeting and to see what I can do,” Strader said. “They (criminals) are not going to get anything past my neighborhood without me knowing about it.”
McCoy encouraged residents to continue to hold meetings and to call police when they notice suspicious activity. “We’re partners in this,” McCoy said. “This is your neighborhood park for your kids to play.”
See video from the meeting at www.coastnewsgroup.com.