Police and city officials outlined steps they are taking to curb a recent series of shootings in Pasadena, as well as reached out to members of the public for their perspectives and ideas during an “emergency community meeting” hosted Thursday evening at Robinson Park.
Police have investigated six shootings that left four people injured over the past week, Pasadena Police Department Deputy Chief Cheryl Moody said. The shootings have primarily centered around the Robinson Park neighborhood and are believed to be the result of a gang feud.
No arrests have been made.
“These are not random shootings, but they’re targeted toward those believed [by the attackers] to be involved or associated with local gangs,” Moody said.
Detectives had no evidence to corroborate rumors that the shootings were racially motivated, she said.
One of the shootings took place at the park about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, as childrens’ football practices were taking place. A man suffered serious wounds in the attack.
Moody promised that at least two police officers would be specifically stationed at the park during practices and games for the immediate future, as well as additional officers in the surrounding area, as well as any location where gunfire has been reported.
“We in the police department are deploying all available resources in the areas where the shootings occurred,” she said.
Police will also continue working closely with community agencies and gang interventionists, as well as working to remove illegal guns from the streets before they become involved in crimes, Moody said.
Another short-term effort being considered is making changes to Morton Avenue, along the west side of Robinson Park, to address resident concerns of persistent illegal activity, City Manager Steve Mermell said. Measures such as changing the street to one direction only and reworking parking arrangements were being considered.
City officials were also considering installing surveillance cameras at Robinson Park, noting that cameras have been a help in curbing problems at the Villa Parke Community Center, he said.
The City Council recently approved a contract to introduce ShotSpotter gunshot detection systems in Pasadena, which have the ability to automatically detect gunfire and relay the position to police within an accuracy of about 82 feet, Mermell said. It was hoped the system would help police catch more assailants, as well as help victims receive medical treatment more quickly.
City Councilmember John Kennedy, whose district includes Robinson Park, said he recognizes there may not be any easy answers. A solution will require a partnership between the community, the city and law enforcement.
“The solution to complex social problems with gangs is not more cops. Although law enforcement is critical, we cannot arrest our way into peace on the streets,” he said.
“We need a broad and perhaps painful conversation on community violence. How do we keep our precious young men from turning to the streets and to guns?” he asked.
Families, churches and interventionists all must play a vital role in stemming the violence, Kennedy said.
He thanked those who attended Thursday’s meeting. By your presence tonight, it lets us all know how important this conversation is,” he said.
Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo agreed that a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach is needed for a long-term solution of gang involvement and violence. But more immediate action is also needed to end the bloodshed.
“I’m concerned about what’s happening in our neighborhoods. I’m concerned about what’s happening in our parks, and I’ve got to tell you that as we look for long term solutions — and we need long-term solutions in keeping young people away from gangs and away from trouble that ends up in violence in our parks and on our streets — but we also have a responsibility to do something in the interim.”
“I’m here to listen. I’m here to think carefully with all of you what the solutions are for both the short term and long term,” Gordo said.
Several community members called for increased police presence in the affected areas. Some mothers said they were hesitant to let their children continue playing sports at Robinson Park.
One resident said while he supported police going after those responsible for the violence, he was concerned that the increase in policing would result in numerous expensive traffic citations for minor violations by neighborhood residents.
Moody said that dozens of guns have been seized by police officers this year through traffic stops, potentially heading off shootings before they took place.
“We don’t want to abuse our power to stop vehicles, but it really does enhance what we’re trying to do when we make those traffic stops and get those guns out,” she said.
Police Chief John Perez said the recent shootings make extra enforcement “necessary to prevent further violence.”
“We will be providing additional resources to the impacted areas both to prevent and deter others from recklessly shooting where innocent people could be struck,” he said. “Our hope is we catch those planning to participate in the violence before they are able to complete the act.”
Ricky Pickens, a Community Violence/Interventionist contracted by the City of Pasadena, City Manager’s Office, who has spent nearly three decades working in gang intervention, told the assembled audience that “you all are the answer.”
As officials work to combat the problem, so must local families and community members, he said.
He cautioned parents to be mindful of their children’s activities and whereabouts, adding that simply being mistaken for a gang member, despite no gang involvement, could cause a person to be targeted.
“When there’s a war going on, there’s a difference between a gang member and a gang banger. Right now, gang banging is going on,” Pickens said.
“So the best thing that we can do in this community, and I’m just going to call it like it is, you can argue with me or fight with me later… You tell your babies, ‘Don’t you wear no attire that looks like that,’” he said.
“Don’t look like it, don’t walk like it, don’t be in an area that looks like it. Keep your babies close. At 12 o;clock at night or 1 o’clock in the morning, your 16-year-old kid should be in the house and not standing outside in front of the house.”
The investigations into the recent shootings have been hampered by a lack of cooperation by victims and witnesses, police said.
Moody urged those with information about violence to report it, adding they can do so anonymously or through L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477 if they don’t feel comfortable speaking directly with police.