A resident speaks at a Public Safety Town Hall Meeting in North Long Beach Monday night. Photos by Sarah Bennett

In the wake of a violent February for North Long Beach—which saw three young men killed in broad daylight in separate incidents—local leaders gathered with residents and community partners at Light & Life Christian Fellowship’s new Cherry Ave. campus Monday night to discuss potential collaborative solutions to the recent spike in crime. 

“This is more than just a police issue—this is a community issue,” said 9th District Councilmember Steve Neal, who organized the event. “Tonight is our chance to gather together as a community and figure out how we can work collectively to solve some of the problems we are facing.”

On February 10, a 22-year-old was shot and killed just blocks from Jordan High School; then, on February 21, a 24-year-old was fatally shot across the street from where the new North Neighborhood Library will soon be erected. The next day, a 20-year-old was killed on Andy Street, a formerly crime-ridden area that had become one of the safest streets in the area thanks to a five-year Multi-Family Improvement District, which—like a Business Improvement District—used annually assessed fees to provide security and youth engagement programs.

All three occurred in the afternoon hours and all three are being investigated as being gang-related. The Andy Street murder was the most disconcerting for LaVerne Duncan, a resident who founded the Andy Street Community Association and has watched the street’s transition over the last decade.

She noted that the February 22 murder was the first to occur on Andy Street since property owners voted against renewing the Andy Street Improvement District last July.

“We cannot let our guard down when things are good and we cannot get complacent,” Duncan said. “We have to continue to fight to keep our neighborhoods safe and we have to keep putting pressure on our owners.”

View 2014 Long Beach Homicide Map in a larger map

Pastor Gregory Sanders of the Long Beach Ministerial Alliance suggested organizing night and day walks as Boston’s TenPoint Coalition and faith-based groups in Salinas, California have done. He said the churches in Long Beach have a responsibility to be active members in their community and will do anything they can to partner with other organizations and groups who want to enact change.  

“It’s conversation not conversion—we can walk these communities as members of those communities and crime will go down,” Sanders said. “In Salinas, they began doing night walks and it reduced crimes immediately because no one wants to commit a crime when people are looking.”

Teresa Gomez of the City’s Gang Reduction Intervention and Prevention Project spoke on the importance of mentorship in preventing gang violence. Six members of the Long Beach community Action Project-run youth leadership group Men Making a Change were also present, as positive examples of youth mentors in the community.

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Despite the recent spurt of gang violence, residents in attendance spoke of the significant decreases in violent crime in North Long Beach over the years and the increased viability of local parks, many of which are being upgraded as part of Neal’s Uptown Renaissance.

According to police, last year, the city experienced a 40-year-low in violent crime and year-to-date murders are the same as they were in 2013. Still, LBPD’s North Division Commander Robert Luman said he has moved directed enforcement teams and other officers with violent crime concentrations into the area of February’s murders in an attempt to partner more with the community and prevent further gang violence.

“Contrary to how it may feel today, violent crime is down overall and especially in the North Division,” Luman said. “What we have here is a series of three homicides in a short span of time and that calls a community to action. All I ask is that those three lives were not lost in vain.”

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