More than 300 people turned out for a community meeting with Santa Ana Police Department officials at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church Monday night to voice concern over drug trafficking and enforcement problems in their neighborhood.
About 15 residents gave testimony in English and Spanish about their encounters with drug traffickers, youth gangs and the police.
"I have a 4-year-old daughter, and I don't want to move out of the area," said Angelica Apodaca, a resident who complained that she is often stopped by dealers and asked if she wants to buy drugs. "But it really upsets me that they are actually selling drugs out in the open."
Melvin Davis, a member of a parish group that has conducted about 200 interviews with neighborhood residents over the past year, said slow police response to emergency calls and to reports of drug sales was one of the most commonly cited problems during the survey.
Santa Ana Deputy Police Chief Eugene Hansen, while recognizing that the neighborhood around the church at 1100 S. Center St. "has a particularly serious drug problem," said the department's efforts to step up enforcement in the area were constrained by a shortage of sworn officers and by equally serious problems in other parts of the city.
"You must be patient with us," Hansen told them.