LYNWOOD — During an unusual noon meeting Thursday, the Lynwood City Council took aim at the city's gang problems. The council, which normally meets at night, selected a communitywide task force to seek solutions to the rising crime rate caused by youth gangs in the city and neighborhoods served by the Lynwood sheriff's station.
Each of four council members at the meeting made two appointments to the task force. Mayor Paul Richards was absent from the meeting but is expected to make his selections by Monday, when the 10-member task force is scheduled to hold its first meeting to choose a chairman.
"We know there are gangs. That's obvious. Solutions are not so obvious," said Councilwoman Evelyn Wells, who proposed the task force.
"The police (Lynwood sheriff's deputies) are busy fighting the gangs but we need more. There is a need for total community involvement in combatting gang crime and finding ways to keep youths out of gangs, providing some type of constructive alternative," Wells said.
Last month, the council asked residents interested in serving to submit their names to City Hall. The council allocated a $5,000 budget; members will receive a stipend of $25 per meeting. The task force is expected to meet twice monthly.
Thirty people applied, said Douglas Robinson, city personnel officer. On Thursday, the council selected six names from the list of applicants and two that were not on the list.
Mario Espana, a machinist at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, and John Bonaventura, a retired toolmaker, were selected by Councilman E. L. Morris. They had not been on the list but Morris told the council that the two men are longtime residents and interested in serving.
Jamal Muhsin, owner of a barbershop in the city, and Amen Omar, who is employed by the Los Angeles County Probation Department, were selected by Councilman Robert Henning.
Joyce Edner, a secretary for the Lynwood Unified School District, and Tiburcia H. Flores, a volunteer with the Lynwood Sheriff's Youth Athletic League, were named by Wells.
Dale Steele, a retired refrigerator salesman, and Edward Pacheco, a retired laborer, were selected by Vice Mayor Louis Heine.
"I don't have any answers but I'm willing to work for some solutions. I think this gang problem should be solved," said Pacheco, 66, who was the only appointee at the meeting. Pacheco, who has lived in the community since 1949, said he was surprised when he was selected but is willing to serve.
"I submitted my name because I want to get involved," Pacheco said.
After choosing a chairman, the task force will begin holding public hearings to receive suggestions from the community, Wells said.
"I know we'll hear a lot about what the gangs are doing. But once we get beyond that, the task force will start attempting to come up with ways to solve the problems," Wells said.
Wells said the task force may invite anti-gang organizations, such as Lakewood's recently formed Mothers Against Gangs in Communities, to offer ideas about possible solutions.
Wells said she started her anti-gang push after the recent outbreak of gang violence in Los Angeles County.
The latest statistics compiled by the Lynwood sheriff's station, which is responsible for law enforcement in Lynwood and adjacent unincorporated areas of east Compton and Willowbrook, show that 29 persons were killed there in gang-related violence last year, 15 more than in 1986.
"We simply must find some answers," Wells said.