Montebello Credits Focus on Gangs for Drop In Homicides
Montebello residents blame other crimes on ‘outsiders.’
By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer
It’s halfway through the year and according to the city’s crime data, Montebello is experiencing a record low number of homicides. While that’s good news to Montebello residents, many say they are still concerned that other crimes, such as auto theft and vandalism are still too high.
Last week, 35-year old Frank Burnell Taylor was fatally shot while he walked on the 500 block of Maple Street. The shooter, described only as a 6-foot, 20-something year old weighing at 180 pounds, has not been arrested.
According to police, the suspect got out of his vehicle, shot Taylor in the chest, then drove away in a compact, silver-colored pickup truck as his victim lay dying in the street.
Taylor’s death marks the city’s first homicide this year, says Montebello Crime Analyst Tarciela Favela. That number, however, does not include attempted murders or shootings where the victim survived.
She points out that the homicide number is an improvement over prior years, with two homicides in 2013, four in 2012 and seven in 2010.
“You can see that homicides have been going down,” Favela said. “One is pretty good in one year.”
The crime analyst attributes the decrease in murders to a reduction in gang activity, which she told EGP is often behind the types of violence that claimed Taylor’s life on July 1st.
“The Montebello Police Department is taking control of the gangs in the city,” Favela said. “If you can get rid of the gangs, crimes [like assault, narcotics and theft] will go out of the city.”
Montebello Police Chief Kevin McClure told EGP the decrease in homicides can be credited to the work of the Operation Sudden Impact task force, which last year led to the arrest of 38 Southside Montebello gang members on murder, methamphetamine distribution and weapons charges.
“The people with the tendency to commit such crimes are no longer in the city and many are in custody,” the police chief said.
Favela told EGP crime numbers could continue to improve if police keep their focus on known gang members. She cautions, however, that there is no way to accurately predict if homicide rates will go down.
“You cannot predict such things, you can’t predict that someone will go out and kill someone else,” she said, specifically referring to a 2012 crime of passion where a man shot and killed his estranged wife outside the Montebello residence where she worked.
McClure told EGP the department’s number one goal has been to “actually focus on the crime,” looking for patterns and addressing them immediately.
The department is using crime mapping daily and adjusting their patrols when they see patterns of crime in certain areas, and changing their focus if they need to at every shift, he said.
But for longtime resident Marty Preciado, 66, even one homicide is still too many.
“That number is too high…I don’t want to hear about any homicides in my city,” she said. Preciado, who acknowledges she’s seen a drop in gang activity, says she’s worried not enough is being done to stop other types of crime in the city.
“We have a good police department, great response times, but there’s still a lot of burglaries and more graffiti,” she said.
So far this year, there have been 143 burglaries, 218 cases of petty theft and 47 incidences of vandalism, according to the city’s crime mapping data. Like many residents, Preciado is quick to blame, gang members from other cities, transients or as she calls them, “outsiders” for those crimes.
Resident Kimberly Cobos, however, blames the smaller size of the city’s police force for what she feels is a decrease in overall safety in the community. She said she has advocated for the city to increase the police department’s budget so they can hire more officers, instead of continuing to use city funds to pay for legal battles involving city council members.
Forty-nine-year-old Monique Broguiere is the business manager of her family’s business, Broguiere’s Farm Fresh Dairy, located in Montebello’s southside and across the street from where Taylor was shot to death.
“I wasn’t surprised it happened,” said Broguiere, who was at work the night of the shooting. She said she has seen a lot of crime during the many years she has lived in the city and while working at her family’s dairy, and has herself been a victim of crime.
“My car has been burglarized twice in the past two months,” she said, visibly annoyed.
Broguiere told EGP the level of crime and how it’s treated in the city’s southside, is notably different from what goes on in the northern parts of Montebello.
“You can see the difference starting south of Beverly,” she said. “The southside has more low-income families and the culture is different.”
For Cobos, the difference in crime is visible south of Whittier Boulevard, specifically in the industrial areas found mainly in the southern parts of the city.
“Some residents in the south sometimes feel like the stepchild,” she said, referring to what she sees as less attention from city officials and police.
But McClure says it’s a “misperception” that there is more crime in the southern part of the city. “Crime stays spread out … when we do see a crime hot spot we put our forces there.”
A big advocate of statistics driven management models, McClure told EGP he does not see more crime in one part of the city compared to other areas. Another misperception, says McClure, is that graffiti automatically means there is gang activity going on.
He said the majority of the graffiti is done by kids “hooked on certain music and who smoke pot” as opposed to hardcore gang members.
The police chief said he hopes to start more youth programs to help kids stay out of trouble and he told EGP that if the city budgets more funds for his department to hire officers, he would use those officers to create a larger community presence and to meet with concerned residents regularly.
McClure says the department is really focused on reducing gang activity and on narcotic suppliers, rather than just the users in the area. He said they are often behind a homicide.
The chief hopes there is no uptick in the homicide rate and that it stays low.
“Knock on wood it stays that way.”Print This Post
July 10, 2014 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.