Crime in NELA Has Skyrocketed

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by Mando Medina

In a small community just northeast of downtown Los Angeles known as Highland Park (in NELA), crime has been skyrocketing over the past year. According to Captain Arturo Sandoval of the Northeast LAPD Division, in the past year 2015 violent crime has jumped 23% (violent crimes consist of homicide, rape and robbery). According to the LA Times crime stats, over the last three months, Highland Park averaged 4.8 violent crimes and 15.2 property crimes per week. That’s an average of two property crimes per day. In the last six months, in Highland Park the rate of 91.1 crimes per 10,000 people is higher than in nearby Glassell Park and lower than Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Eagle Rock, Cypress Park and Mount Washington.

January started with a 19-year-old male identified as Kaelyn Michael Tarin discovered shot to death inside of his tent on Sunday, January 17, 2016, on the grounds of Sycamore Park on North Figueroa Street, near Ramona Hall. Preliminary findings show that Tarin may have sustained multiple gunshot wounds to his torso area. Tarin had been residing in the park area for some time and is the second homeless person killed in this same area within a six-month time span. Was it a drug deal gone bad like the police are now claiming? Was it gang rivals entering another's territory to see where people are from? We may never know. This investigation remains ongoing.

In October, two young women found murdered in Debs Park. Investigators said the two women were fully clothed and did not appear to have been sexually assaulted. Rumors have it the girls were attacked by guys from their home area who heard they were dating guys from the other side of the hill. Like with all deaths to those some consider marginal, the truth may never be known to us in the public. Police believe the females, Gabriela Calzada and Briana Gallegos knew each other and were killed at the location at which they were discovered.

In December, authorities were looking for up to five men who followed undercover LAPD officers and then fired on the officers’ vehicle in a high-crime area of Rose Hills just south of Montecito Heights, near where Caldaza and Gallegos were found about two months earlier. The undercover officers were patrolling around Ernest E. Debs Regional Park about 3:30 p.m. when the men fired on them.

Also in December, two women were sought after a 24-year-old man was found fatally stabbed in Highland Park, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Bryan Wilfredo Najarro, 24, was found suffering from multiple stab wounds and pronounced dead at the scene by Los Angeles Fire Department officials, according to the LAPD.

There was the fatal stabbing of 34-year-old Olugbenga Oni, whose body was found in an alley near Figueroa Street and Avenue 60 last January. Detective Ubaldo Zesati with the LAPD Northeast Division said the victim was stabbed in the upper torso and was killed in or near the alley. Police don’t believe that Oni, a black male who was found lying face-down in the alley at about 9:30 p.m., lived in the area but at this point they don’t have much information or a motive.

Allen Jay Milton, 43, was arrested and said to be the man responsible for the fatal stabbing of another man on a Metro bus in Highland Park on November 9, 2015. He is believed to be one of three men who boarded bus line 81 at Avenue 57 and Figueroa about 10:40 p.m. The men walked to the rear of the bus and began arguing with a man who was sitting alone, authorities said. That’s when Milton allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed the man in the chest.

In November, Los Angeles police were searching for a man who attempted to sexually assault a woman on a busy Highland Park street on a Thursday evening. Officers responded to the area of York Boulevard and Toledo Street around 6:30 p.m. after a female victim was attacked, Los Angeles Police Department announced. Lt. Shah of the LAPD described the incident as an assault with the intent to commit rape.

Crime and homeless numbers have risen in the small town of Highland Park despite the unending attempts at gentrifying the community. As more people are being displaced, more people become homeless and head to the Arroyo only to be kicked out and forced to find another campsite. There is also a huge meth problem in Highland Park that adds to all the problems the area faces today. Council members Huizar and Cedillo and the HHPNC have not done much to solve the crime and homeless problem in the community. In my opinion, it seems they are more focused on gentrifying the community other than solving the problems Highland Park is facing today.

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