Violence spurs Norwalk town hall meeting

NORWALK - About two dozen people turned out for a town hall meeting last Saturday morning at Edmondson Elementary, where residents and sheriff's officials discussed public safety and quality of life issues in Norwalk.The light crowd wasn't what city and sheriff's officials had hoped for considering more than 6,000 fliers advertising the meeting had been distributed in the neighborhood near Excelsior Drive and Norwalk Boulevard. "It's disheartening that we visited 6,000 homes and this is the turnout we get," said Lt. Dana Chemnitzer of the Norwalk's Sheriff Station, who led the meeting with assistance from Capt. Patrick Maxwell and public safety staff. The entire City Council was in attendance as well. Still, the residents in attendance were actively engaged, peppering sheriff's officials with questions and concerns about after-hour loitering in Norwalk parks, speeders and gang activity. Nine homicides have occurred in Norwalk this year, and seven have been criminal, Maxwell told the crowd. Most of the killings were gang-related: gang members shooting other gang members. In some cases, the victims were not gang members but dressed like one. "My advice to parents is, don't let your kids dress like a gangster," Maxwell said. "Because if you dress like a duck and act like a duck, people will think you're a duck." Thefts are also on the rise in Norwalk, though most are crimes of opportunity in which drivers tempt thieves by leaving their GPS and other electronics in plain sight. Thieves are targeting SUV third-row seats as well, which can be removed in as little as 30 seconds and sell for big money on the black market. Another thing to look out for: thieves are breaking into cars at local movie theaters and stealing the garage door opener and car registration. Then they drive to the address listed on the car registration and burglarize the house, knowing the occupants may not be home for a couple of hours. Burglaries and break-ins have long been a problem in Norwalk due to the city's close proximity to local freeways. In fact, sheriff's deputies arrested two people for a residential burglary last week and the suspects were from Long Beach. Authorities recommended documenting the serial numbers of your electronics, weapons and other valuables. Meanwhile, residents complained about drunks and gang members hanging out at local parks after dark. Hermosillo Park, in particular, is a sore spot for residents who claim the park attracts shady characters at all hours of the night. The park can be accessed through five cul-de-sacs, in addition to its main entrance on 162nd Street. Residents raised the possibility of securing the park with fencing, an idea supported by Councilman Mike Mendez. "There is never going to be a cost issue when it comes to residents' safety," Mendez said. "If cost is going to prevent us from making the park safe, I never want to hear that." Councilman Marcel Rodarte agreed, saying the council is "going to do everything in our power in regards to public safety." Maxwell urged residents to be proactive in their community by reporting suspicious activity to the Norwalk Sheriff's Station. "There is no problem in Norwalk that we can't fix," the captain said. "But the only way we can take care of the problem is if you let us know about it. We need your input."

********** Published: October 25, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 28