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SOUTH GATE : Residents, Officials Discuss Crime Issues


Lourdes Beromen was worried about how crime might affect her four children, but she didn't know whom to turn to. So last week Beromen met with District Atty. Gil Garcetti.

Beromen was among about 150 parents, teachers, students and law enforcement officials who attended Family Forum, a meeting sponsored by Garcetti's office to discuss crime.

"This is really important for me, because I want to know what programs are out there," Beromen said during Monday's meeting at South Gate Middle School. "I want to know if there's a program to ensure kids don't end up in gangs and if they are doing anything to protect people who turn in drug dealers."

Garcetti describes the goal of the program as restoring credibility in the criminal justice system for the many residents who are skeptical of it.

"If the people we serve think we are unfair, then it's much more difficult to govern," Garcetti said. "The only way to do change this is to go into the communities and answer their questions."

As part of the program, Garcetti and members of his staff will have meetings every six weeks in various cities and neighborhoods. "I know there is frustration out there and there is anger and fear, but the anger is sometimes rooted in not having sufficient information," Garcetti said.

Garcetti said his staff will stay in contact with the communities and continue working with local groups. Sessions are already planned for South-Central and surrounding communities, said Susan Childs, director of communication for the district attorney's office.

Garcetti said he hopes one immediate effect of the program will be to dispel fears among illegal immigrants who in fear of deportation might not seek help or report incidents of domestic violence and child abuse.

"We must communicate to people. I have told people that they won't be turned in to immigration if they contact us," he said.

The program was enthusiastically welcomed by city officials such as South Gate Police Chief Ron George, who said, "I've never seen the district attorney come out, and I'm very pleased."

However, residents are still cautious because they know the magnitude of the crime problem.

"I think it's a positive thing if it will help with the gang problem," said 21-year-old Luis Alberto Otero, who lives in Lynwood. "After 8 or 9 p.m. you can't go out alone because you'll get mugged."

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