LANCASTER – Loud music, speeding cars, and juvenile delinquents are the top three issues plaguing the El Dorado neighborhood. So said residents who attended a Town Hall Meeting at El Dorado Elementary School Thursday night.
The meeting was a chance for law enforcement and city officials to address safety and community service issues affecting the neighborhood, which covers the area from Avenue J to Lancaster Boulevard and from Division Street to Challenger Way.
“We want to hear from residents,” City Manager Mark Bozigian told the crowd of about 150. “What challenges your neighborhood is facing and constructive ideas on how they can be addressed.”
“I’m here to tell you we can’t do it alone,” Lancaster Station Captain Bob Jonsen added. “We need this partnership more than ever because [of] some of the challenges that are confronting us.”
Jonsen said 70 percent of crimes in the El Dorado neighborhood were property related. He said residential burglaries, petty theft, and vehicle burglaries were the leading crimes in the neighborhood.
“All three of those are preventable, but they’re going to require us to work together to reduce them,” Jonsen said.
Residents at Thursday’s town hall meeting seemed more concerned with quality of life issues. Several residents complained that their neighbors were blasting profanity-laced music, especially on Sunday mornings.
“There’re some adults, not kids, that play their music and they do it spitefully,” said Minister Thomas DiFilippi Sr. “They know that we’ve complained.”
DiFilippi said one night his neighbors got concert speakers and pointed them into the houses.
“Not only the windows would vibrate, you couldn’t sleep with air plugs in and sound devices on your head,” he said. “I called several times and somebody told me ‘good luck’ from the Sheriff’s Department… then people left that place drunk driving coming out into the community.”
Jonsen encouraged residents to report these types of activities to the department as soon as they happen. He said Lancaster Station had specific units tasked with breaking up noisy parties.
“We take it very seriously, and that’s why we have these “party cars” in place to go and break these disturbances up before they get to that point,” Jonsen said.
“Neighbors who don’t take pride in their neighborhood, they’re just being scumbags for the rest of you, excuse my language,” said Bozigian. “So we have a Chronic Nuisance Ordinance.”
Bozigian said the Chronic Nuisance Ordinance enabled the city to charge residents a heavy fine after five deputy-responded complaints.
“If they don’t comply, they’re going to get a bill from the city for a very hefty amount,” he said.
Vehicles speeding through the neighborhood were also a concern for several residents.
“Nothing stops these people and nothing slows them down,” said Ashleigh Kemper.
Kemper, who lives on 3rd street east between Avenue J and Lancaster, said she often feared for her life while walking the streets of her neighborhood.
“I was just walking yesterday pushing the stroller with my seven-month-old, my four-year-old is riding her bike beside me, and a guy goes zooming up the street 60 miles an hour,” Kemper said. “He looks at me and doesn’t even slow down. What do I do?”
Jonsen said residents should report the problem immediately so the department could notify its traffic unit.
“The thing about speeding is… it’s the same people every single day,” Jonsen said. “I guarantee you, once they get one ticket, they’re going to slow down.”
Many residents also complained that a pack of juveniles were terrorizing certain streets in the El Dorado neighborhood.
An elderly man, who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution, said two dozen youths routinely loitered near his home, blasting music and fighting in the streets.
“It’ll go on until three o’clock in the morning… you hear them out there screaming and yelling at each other,” the man said. “You gonna confront 24 of these guys and tell them to buzz off? No, I don’t think so!”
Another resident, Pat Lynch, said the young troublemakers had taken to intimidating older residents for sport. Lynch said, the other day, one of the troublemakers placed his bicycle in the middle of the street, apparently daring anybody to mess with it.
“The kids would not remove it, I drove around it, the car coming the other way had to go into my lane to go around it…” he said. “This is total intimidation out here.”
Lynch said the youths had also pounded on his wife’s vehicle as she drove by.
He said the troublemakers should be picked up by the Sheriff’s Department and made to do community service.
“Get them out there to pick up the trash and clean up the area,” Lynch said, to applause from the audience.
Another woman suggested the city find a way to divert the youths’ attention to something more positive.
More than a dozen community groups, including Paving the Way, the Boys and Girls Club, and the United Community Action Network (UCAN), spoke about their services at the Town Hall Meeting.
Following the meeting, Jonsen said the Sheriff’s Department should be able to quickly address all the residents’ concerns.
“I’m happy to hear that they’re more of the quality of life issues,” Jonsen said. “That’s why we have the CORE program in place and I’m very confident we’ll be able to have a meeting like this in six months and have a lot of these frustrations somewhat diminished.”
Jonsen said the CORE deputy assigned to the El Dorado neighborhood is Shannon Knight. He said Knight noted the residents’ concerns and would be using all the resources at department’s disposal to address the issues.
Community activist Dr. Miguel Coronado commended the Sheriff’s Department and city officials for hosting the meeting.
“I wholeheartedly support our captain and our city leadership,” Coronado said. “We must work together in our community together, our nation depends on it.”