About 200 Sepulveda residents jammed an elementary school auditorium Tuesday to plot a campaign against drug pushers who moved their operations near the school after being driven away from a nearby street.
Drug dealers brazenly ply their trade around the school, and people walking on the nearby streets risk being mugged or attacked, residents said.
Police agreed with the residents that the center of area drug trafficking a year ago was Orion Avenue, one block to the west, but that it has moved near Langdon Avenue Elementary School, the site of the Neighborhood Watch meeting Tuesday night.
"What Orion was a year ago, Langdon is now," Capt. Charles Dinse said.
"Our message on Orion was simply, 'We've had enough,' " said Debbie King, a leader of the earlier anti-crime effort. "Unfortunately they didn't go very far. . . . We want to ensure for our children a safe place to learn, to grow, to play."
Dinse promised the group that police would continue stepped-up patrols on Langdon Avenue. He said police have made 1,200 arrests there in the last nine months, a marked increase.
He did not promise that more officers would be deployed in the area, citing staff shortages, but said, "We will make sure this area does not become a permanent haven for drug dealers."
About 15 teachers, parents and students spoke at the meeting. They called for a mutual effort of police and parents to stem the wave of drug-related crime. Several said the drug dealing has caused problems and hardships at the school.
"I hurt for the kids . . . that have to exist in a neighborhood like this, so overrun by people who don't care," said Cindy Tilch, a teacher at the school.
Jennifer Cooper, a 10-year-old student, said, "I don't think it's fair that children around here should have to see people in buildings carrying knives and guns. And it's not fair that our teachers have to lock the doors to our classrooms."
Parents said they became aware of the severity of the problem when school officials initiated "police alert drills." Five times in the last three weeks, school officials have sounded an alarm, ordering students playing outside to run into the classrooms because of crime problems, Principal Gerald Gottlieb said.
The alarm was sounded once when a man was seen atop an adjacent apartment's roof with a gun pointed toward the street.
Police said the problem has become severe in the last six months, with drug dealers approaching students on the sidewalk and selling drugs by the schoolyard fence.
Sgt. Alfonso Rodriguez said in a telephone interview that it has been difficult to get the cooperation of residents in the area.
"They're terrified of retaliation by these gangs and dope dealers," Rodriguez said. "If I had to live there . . . I don't blame them, really."
But residents at the Tuesday meeting vowed that it would mark the beginning of a community stand against street crime.
"There are more of us than there are of them," King said.