No Shortage of Issues, Hollenbeck Residents Tell L.A.’s City Attorney
The turnout to meet new neighborhood prosecutor was low, but vocal.
By Jacqueline García, EGP Staff Writer
Rogue marijuana dispensaries, illegal dumping and public safety were some of the hot button issues people at a forum Tuesday night in Boyle Heights told Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer they want his new neighborhood prosecutor to start addressing.
Billed as a chance to meet Cynthia Gonzalez, the new neighborhood prosecutor for areas served by Los Angeles Police Dept.’s Hollenbeck Division, the “Meet Your Prosecutor Forum” at Boyle Heights City Hall drew about 50 people, most from Boyle Heights and representing local non-profit organizations and neighborhood councils, or local stakeholders who regularly attend these type of community meetings.
Feuer did most of the talking, explaining that neighborhood prosecutors are assigned to specific areas of the city to deal with drug sales, prostitution, illegal dumping, graffiti, street racing and violence that affect the quality of life in those neighborhoods. When possible, the neighborhood prosecutor tries to help keep nuisance concerns from rising to the level of criminal offenses.
Gonzalez will work with the communities of Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, Hermon, Montecito Heights, Aliso Village, Estrada Courts, Hillside Village, Monterey Hills, Pico Gardens, Ramona Gardens, Rose Hills Courts and University Hills.
Feur said before he hired Gonzalez he asked her why she wanted the position. He said she told him that growing up in El Monte she would often see gang fights, shootings and crimes, but people were afraid to call the police.
“My [parents] didn’t want to tell anyone, they were concerned about the gangs and they were concerned about the authorities,” Feuer said Gonzalez responded. Gonzalez said she wants to help people, especially those who don’t speak English, feel safe and to not fear police, “but to have faith in the justice system,” said Feuer explaining why he hired Gonzalez.
“I want to be that liaison, the connection to law enforcement,” Gonzalez told the forum audience. “I want you guys to have confidence in me, that I will advocate [for you] in any way that I can,” she said.
Although attendance was low, it was clear that those who did show up had no reservations telling the city attorney which issues they want dealt with in their neighborhood, referring for the most part to Boyle Heights.
People wanted to know how Gonzalez could help deal with elderly abuse, and what’s going to happen to Boyle Height’s controversial marijuana Farmers Market. They said they don’t like the large number of drug and alcohol addicts going to rehab centers that have opened close to schools and churches.
Someone asked if young people of color are more likely to be stopped and arrested by the police.
Answering most of the questions, Feuer explained how each situation works and what needs to be done in situations that aren’t easy to fix.
“In our office, we take [illegal pot shops] very seriously,” said Feuer, just as you have “shown us by your vote.” He introduced his team of attorneys working to shut down illegal marijuana dispensaries, saying they are in “charge of prosecuting each [offense] and follow up.”
Several people pointed out that gang members and drug users and sellers are taking over Evergreen Park in Boyle Heights. “Safety is a great issue for our non-profit that works with about 250 kids” who often play at Evergreen Park, said Aba Ramirez, vice president of Boyle Heights Wolfpack Football and Cheer. “We need more [police] visibility at the park, law enforcement to walk around,” she told Feuer.
Margarita Amador told EGP her biggest concern is illegal dumping. She said many businesses at the south end of Boyle Heights have taken to “throwing their trash out on the street to avoid the fees that they have to pay for the disposal.”
“By Mariachi Plaza there was a landlord who literally set 16 toilets on the curb,” thinking that people can use them, Amador added. “We are not a dumping ground, that’s an insult to everybody.”
According to Gonzalez, she has spent the last three or four weeks touring neighborhoods and has found that many issues can be handled with education rather than prosecution. For example, “People don’t know that by illegally dumping you can get jailed for up to six months,” Gonzalez told EGP. “I want to be able to educate, I don’t want to be putting people on probation or in jail,” she said.
Gonzales thinks that it’s important to reach out to schools, parents and organizations to inform them about issues that could unnecessarily land people in jail.
On June 2, Feuer announced the appointment of 10 new prosecutors, including Gonzalez, bringing the number of neighborhood prosecutors in the city to 16.Print This Post
July 24, 2014 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.