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Rival Gangs Fueling Violence on Monte Vista Street

Monte Vista Street's violent summer, fueled by opposing gangs, resulted in the killing of Pedro Morales on Saturday evening, police say.

The killing of Pedro Morales and the wounding of his brother in a shooting on Monte Vista Street Saturday evening were the latest in a string of violent incidents fueled by rival gangs that have moved into the area, according to police.

Homicide detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division, who on Monday morning were still in the field, investigating the shooting, confirmed that they believe the killing of Morales to have been gang related. Police have not released the name of Morales' wounded brother.

No information on potential suspects has been released yet.

Detective Rick Ortiz of the Northeast LAPD Gang Unit said his officers would likely cooperate in the investigation as well. 

Ortiz told Patch that the increased violence in the area could be traced to the relocation of rival gang members into the area.

[Editor's Note: Patch does not use the names of area gangs in our reporting, so as to not contribute to their local fame.]

"What's going on is that we have a gang that for years has been located above York Boulevard and they've migrated down south, converging in that Monte Vista area with another gang," Ortiz said. "Another gang that's been inactive for many years has also had an uprising. We're not sure how they ended up in that area. Families just end up in one area or another. They migrated that way. I don't think that the gang is thinking 'We have to move over in that area;' they just ended up there and started getting active."

According to the crime data tracking website CrimeMapping.com, there have been 28 reports of assault with a deadly weapon within the area bounded by Avenue 52, Avenue 59, Monte Vista Street and North Figueroa Street since the start of 2012. 

Morales' killing is the first homicide of the year on Monte Vista Street.

"I think it's youngsters trying to step up," Ortiz said. "It's typical gang-banging. Someone will spray graffiti, somebody else will cross it out, then it escalates from there."

According to the Eastsider L.A., residents in the area had noticed the tagging sign "53" showing up recently, which they reported was new in the area.

, concerns have been raised about the ability of LAPD to effectively police gang crime in the area.

"Actually the police are a part of the problem. LAPD's job is to police the city, and make their presence felt to prevent crime. If LAPD is seen more often, criminals of all sorts will think twice about the crimes they are committing.  Maybe LAPD would witness some of these crimes and catch these people," said Patch commenter Gill. "LAPD's budget increases every year. Yet LAPD patrol officers are being taken off the streets and promoted. The number of LAPD officers on the actual street always stays the same or just barely increases, while they continue to get a bigger budget. I think patrolling our streets is more important than building new police stations and buying new cars every two years."

Gill's point about LAPD's budget increasing every year is technically incorrect, as this year's city budget cut funding to the department by $120 million, much of which will come at the expense of overtime pay for patrol officers. But, it also raises an important question about how LAPD prioritizes the allocation of its resources.

Ortiz said that the LAPD Northeast Gang Unit was still fully staffed and capable of patrolling the streets of Highland Park.

He said there are currently 18 uniformed patrol officers in the unit and 10 detectives. The detectives typically work daytime shifts, Monday through Friday, while the patrol officers rotate schedules seven days a week. Detectives are also available to assist in patrols on nights and weekends, Ortiz said.

When asked if his unit had the necessary manpower to patrol gang activity in Highland Park, Ortiz responded: "I'd say yes. If we had more, it'd be better, though. But, our gang unit, for instance, it's not the largest in the city, but we can run seven days a week. There's always a gang officer out there."

Ortiz said a bigger problem in combating gang violence in Highland Park was an unwillingness on the behalf of witnesses and victims to report crimes, for fear of retaliation from gang members.

"The best thing the residents of that area can do—and they don't really like to do it—is report the crime," Ortiz said. "There's a reluctance to become involved because it's gangs. They don't want to get involved. Witnesses and victims of gang crimes are afraid to come forward."

Ortiz said he understood the unwillingness of victims to come forward, but he stressed that community cooperation was an important tool in fighting gang crime, and that it often leads to arrests that take gang members off the streets.

He said that LAPD also had the funding necessary to relocate witnesses, should they feel threatened.

"Absolutely, when we do get victims who want to come forward, we're able to relocate them, help them out," Ortiz said. "We still get that resource from the state."

Margarito Martinez July 09, 2012 at 09:17 PM
God bless Pedro, and may the God of Peace look upon us, and send the holy angels to assit his soul. Also, let like minded people ask Almighty God to send his Holy Ghost to touch the hateful perpertrators of the crime. We ask for peace for all involved, and your special help for detectives looking to solve this case, and to bring justice, because that is what society demands for such an act. We ask for only peace...we seek that source of peace and love everyone desperately yearns for, and no matter what happens, we will never lose hope, or give up our struggle for peace!
Eve S. July 09, 2012 at 09:18 PM
We shouldn't look at people not coming forward to report crimes as the "bigger problem." People "may feel threatened," but relocation is going to do very little to persuade them, considering that it would require them to leave their home, neighborhood, family, and friends. Wouldn't it be better if there were no crimes to report? I realize that to eliminate all crime in any part of the city is virtually impossible. However, the focus should be on deterring crime as much as possible. A greater police presence would discourage most criminals from committing the crimes in the first place.
HLP Frenchy July 09, 2012 at 09:57 PM
I feel for his children, he was a father of 3: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/07/1-killed-1-wounded-in-highland-park-shooting.html When is this going to stop?
Joshua July 09, 2012 at 10:18 PM
The LAPD really is clueless what's going on in Highland Park. There is a full fledge gang war under way between the HLP gang and dogtown gang. These gangs had been at peace for decades before this war started. This younger generation just couldn't get along, given the fact that hlp started moving in on dogtown turf. Things will only get worse if lapd doesn't crack down on both gangs.
Bob Bailey July 09, 2012 at 11:43 PM
One of the problems is were using a GANG TAG to identify our community. HLP is a gang tag from the 1980's. We live in Highland Park or H.P. No H.P. is NOT Huntington Park it's Highland Park pure and simple.
Carl Showalter July 10, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Northeast Area LAPD is on Facebook. Those of you on FB should consider talking to them there. Use an anonymous account if it makes you feel more at ease... https://www.facebook.com/northeastarea.lapd
Ricardoh July 10, 2012 at 04:55 PM
We have politicians making dumb laws all day long. I suggest they make a law outlawing gangs. Join a gang go to jail. A tent jail in the desert would do nicely. Or maybe not and just continue living like you are. Being a product of HP in the 1950s I can tell you there were no gangs or murders then. It could be that way again if you have the guts to demand action.
Armez July 10, 2012 at 05:54 PM
There is a gang injunction in place for these gangs last i researched. So increased police presence in the area is critical. I think they should increase patrols where there is a high concentation of apartments. That would include Ash Street and Aldama and Avenue 59 and Aldama where the peewees enjoy tagging the walls. Call 311 for graffiti removal!
Armez July 10, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Or you can privately message and ask for anonymity... Remember that the WE TIP line is also anonymous.
Armez July 10, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Be solution focused: The Solution to the Problem is to get involved in a NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH. The poor and undereducated are often frightened to report for more reasons than we know. But for those who have command of the english language and are local to the problem area, and vocal about it's problems, perhaps the burden of leadership falls on you. Join the Neighborhood Watch or create your own with the guidance of the Senior Lead officer for HIghland Park.
Ricardoh July 10, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Neighborhood Watch and two dollars will buy you a cup of coffee. I know this is a free country but that doesn't mean you have the right to join a violent organization. You join a gang the gang commits a gang crime and everyone in the gang goes to jail, simple as that.
Bob Bailey July 10, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I can sure tell fromaggia has had no personal experience with the gangs. Nor has she talked with a cop off the record. As with Ricardoh I grew here in H.P. Ave 50 and monte vista no gangs back then. But holy Joe Arpaio a tent city what great thought. But I can here all liberals scream you've violated their rights.
Hooper Humperdink July 10, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Ricardoh and Bob Bailey - for the love of ... what planet are you guys from? You two are such "experts" on gangs, huh? We have been getting tough on gangs for at least a generation now. Our community has its youngsters harvested into the prison/judicial system, from which there is no escape, every month of the year. Our people keep that disgusting machine well-stocked with inmates, parolees, victims, and others that the professionals in that industry make their pay with. Your ideas are undemocractic, and downright fascist. I'd rather have a gang than some armed enforcer sending people to jail for growing up on a block in a poor neighborhood and having friends, aka "being in a gang" in your book. We have figured out a way out of this gang situation, but we have also found ourselves incompetent and uninterested in really working on things that ... work! Instead we get heated fascist rhetoric from keyboard jockeys and paranoid suburbanites. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC3aKgyhPBE
Ricardoh July 10, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Josef many people grew up in much poorer neighborhoods than HP and never joined a gang. I had a group of friends in HP and we used to hang out in front of one of the groups house but no one talked about fighting and if someone from the next block walked by no one said, "where you from?" So why is it that some people think they own their block or neighborhood? Gangs started in Los Angeles in the 1940s and they are worse now then ever so what ever you propose is not working and in the mean time the peace of mind for thousands of people is being disturbed. People are being robbed, car thefts are zooming, and assaults all over the place and you would rather have gangs. Well that is pretty much what you are going to have the rest of your life. I don't have the problem their are no gangs in my city.
Pink dode July 10, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Eve, sounds like you should suit up and jump in a black and white to show everyone how it's done. Understand this, the hardcore gangster could care less if they see a police car drive by with an officer trying to look cool with his sunglasses and tribal armband tattoo. It's the community cooperation and effective intelligence gathering that allows officers to target the specific individuals responsible for gang related crimes. This also requires a prudent management of resources. For example, offering cash overtime for crime suppression details in target gang locations that demand results from officers that are interested in the program (many officers are interested because they are being ripped off by the city, no cash overtime, simply a time bank that officers have little to no discretion over use). This could easily triple the presence of uniformed police in target areas. Now, quit whining and go tell your city councilman to get the overtime detail going!
Wayne Turner July 11, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Wayne Turner 5:26 pm on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 SOMEONE SAID THAT PEOPLE WON'T GET INVOLVED UNTIL IT HAPPENS TO THEM. Learn of the injustice that Matthew Turner has suffered at the hands of DA Andrea Pott and Northeast Detectives Harold Dicorce,Lisa Gorverno and Jose Carrillo.A case filled with DA and LAPD Misconduct.Please hear a "Mother's Cry For Justice" it's a video by Mina Turner, Matthew's mother. It is a heartfelt cry for help, to someone that is willing to take on the task of exposing the injustice that Matthew has encountered through our legal system. Actually there were somethings that were done by the DA and the LAPD intentionally, to secure a conviction for this innocent man. A Mother's Cry For Justice http://highlandpark-ca.patch.com/articles/matthew-turner-defense-team-releases-cry-for-justice#youtube_video-7236024 MATTHEW TURNER WRONGFULLY CONVICTED (A MUST SEE VIDEO) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGBfhe-1cyA&list=UUVFN9yay2ebhHf-NebPSG6w&index=3&feature=plcp FREE MATTHEW TURNER Website www.freematthewturner.com Please Sign Our Petition http://www.change.org/petitions/free-matthew-turner-case-ba360333 Summary Of Facts https://www.facebook.com/notes/evangelist-wayne-turner/summary-of-facts-in-the-matthew-turner-case-ba-360333/228169317215855
Johnny R. July 11, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Gill's perception that there are not a lot of police in the field is correct. Although LAPD has the highest number of sworn officers in its history (almost 10,000), the number of street cops has not increased. Some areas like Northeast will only have 4 or 5 cars deployed at any given time. Why? patrol policework is way too risky. LAPD is more political now than it ever has been; the mayor is effectively running the department (Charlie who?). LAPD commanders take officers who should be in the field and place them in specialized units and admin jobs: less risk. Before, if you had a gang problem, your 10 or 15 patrol units plus your 10 CRASH officers would do proactive police work (traffic stops, pedestrian stops, hitting gang locations) and put gangsters away on warrants, guns, dope, etc. After Rodney King "proactive police work" became a dirty phrase (see any LA Times article from the 1990s). LAPD commanders bought into this because they are not police, they are politicians and do whatever the mayor and council ask. LAPD does not want the liability or political criticism that the department is "harrassing" gang members. One claim like that will derail a command staff career. With the mayor's 30 million -a-year gang reduction program, gangs are the good guys now. If you live in the City of LA, get used to it, or elect mayors and councilmembers that care more about your neighborhood than their careers and bank accounts. Anyone remember "Cocaine Mike" Hernandez?
dont lie July 11, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Hmmm?
dont lie July 11, 2012 at 01:08 AM
I think the gang unit needs to work random hours the gang members know when they start their shift.
Gil July 11, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Pink Dode: How do you know what a hardcore gangbanger thinks??? How do you know that all a officer cares about is looking cool??? And if did care about looking cool, does that mean he can't or don't know how to do his job??? You comments are silly. To depend on victims and witnesses for INTEL. is down right dangerous and unreliable. Eve is right on i agree. Prevention. LAPD gets more than enough money. They need to learn how to be more efficient and stop building new police stations. 18-19 patrol cars for all northeast is not enough.
HLPSUCKS July 12, 2012 at 08:58 PM
love ur post!
Armez July 12, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Ricar-doh and Bob, it doesn't make sense this comment: "to have the right to join a violent organization". Are you inferring NW are not pro-active? It depends on which one you belong to of the many. Unlike you guyz who prefer to see these young people kill eachother, I would rather assist LAPD and be their eyes and ears than to sit on my behind doing nothing. And I'll keep on doing it if it means eradicating violence by peaceful means. I've had significant personal experience with gangs, you don't know the half of it Bob so stop making ass-u-ming remarks. "What planet are you two guys from?", quoting Josef.
Armez July 12, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Anyone remember Mike ...aka Jabba the Hut? Of course I do! What a disapointment he was? Anyone remember Antonio Villaraigosa when he was Coucilman for CD 14? Another disappointment.
John H. Robinson August 03, 2012 at 10:20 AM
I am a black person who lives close to highland park since 1998 and I do a lot of shopping along Figueroa Street. I know that I stand out in this community but I think local vedors appreciate that I spend money with them. However a few nice vendors have warned me that there are some ruffians among residents that might want to harm me if only because of my color. I simply try to maintain as low a profile as possibly and create no reason for anyone to seek trouble with me. Yet I know that I have been lucky as once in a while I receive hate stares from younger residents. This newstory has renewed my fears that I had tried to suppress. I hate to feel that I need to rethink how I move causually around this area. Mayby in the future I may need to travel further for stores and services. These acts of gang violence do a disservice to nice persons in the community who need the extra cash that persons such as me can give them. I have noticed that I never see any of my neighbors using the local stores and shops and car washes and mechanics. What a waste that communities degenerate to this point. This is not what living in American communities is supposed to mean.
PD August 16, 2012 at 08:35 PM
2John, well said. @Johnny R, so true so true

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