Last week, the Costa Mesa Police Department reported that gang-related
crime here has dropped by more than half this year, and by 65% compared
to statistics from two years ago.
The report took into account the first five months of each year and
included all types of incidents, including assaults, driving under the
influence of drugs or alcohol, weapon violations and vandalism.
Oscar Santoyo, director of Save Our Youth, said that when he drives
through the West Side now, he is reminded of how things were when he grew
up in the 1960s and '70s.
"I noticed a different tone in that community that is good," he said.
"Kids were out playing. Adults were leaning over the fence talking. It's
nice to see that again in that area."
The atmosphere in the same neighborhood was much more tense and
hostile a year ago, and he did see gangs out and about, Santoyo said.
The same is true of the Shalimar Drive neighborhood, said Maria
Alvarez, who helped found the Shalimar Learning Center in 1994. The
center shut down recently after parents and children protested the firing
of Alvarez, though center officials are planning on reopening it.
"I feel a little more safe walking down the street," said Alvarez, who
has lived in the area for 25 years. "I still hear people complaining
about drug deals and prostitution, but I think it's reduced over the last
The key, said Alvarez, is to give the kids something positive to do as
an alternative to joining gangs.
Despite the falling crime rate, some residents said the city and the
police department still have work to do in reducing crime.
West Side resident Tom Egan said he can still feel the effects of the
crime that occurs around him.
"I still see graffiti on the walls," he said. "My car was vandalized
recently. I can see the numbers are going down. But I don't feel any
safer than I did before."
The police department is trying harder than ever to make neighborhoods
safer, said Sgt. Clay Epperson, a gang detail officer with the Costa Mesa
The department last week restarted its bicycle patrol program,
assigning two full-time officers to it five days a week, he said.
"That would help us have a closer contact with the community," he
said. "It'll also help us have a strong presence and hopefully keep bad
elements away from our neighborhoods."
o7 FEEL SAFER?f7
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