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Group Rallies to Clean Up Alley Area

March 17, 1994|IRIS YOKOI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A group of residents on Gardena's northernmost border say they are tired of being neglected by City Hall and the Police Department and have formed a community organization to try to rid their neighborhood of crime, trash and transients.

The residents of apartments along El Segundo Boulevard say city response has been dismal to their calls about speeding cars, vehicle burglaries and a recent influx of transients who residents say have set up camp in an alley in the 2100 block of the boulevard.

Yolanda Hardgraves, a 19-year resident of the area, said she got the runaround at City Hall when she called initially last fall to ask for help with half a dozen transients living in apartment complex carports opening onto the alley. She eventually was told to report the transients to police, who would occasionally come to shoo the transients away. But the alley-dwellers always return, she said.

The Rev. Roderick Ewell, a 10-month resident of the area, said that he never sees police patrolling there and that officers are slow to respond to calls.

A number of residents were upset recently when it took officers more than an hour to arrive after four cars were burglarized, Ewell said.

"The lighting is terrible here, and we have guys drag-racing down the middle of the alley," he said. Ewell, a Baptist minister who works for a regional anti-gang program and is the father of a 1-year-old boy, continued: "The city has shown they don't care at all."

When residents complained at a recent City Council meeting, officials reacted with surprise, saying this was the first they had heard of problems in the area. Police Chief Richard Propster said he would look into the complaints, and council members vowed to help the residents.

But council members also questioned why they hadn't heard from the residents. "We can't respond unless people let us know," Councilman James Cragin said.

Meanwhile, residents are trying to do something on their own, Hardgraves said.

About 50 neighbors gathered Saturday to pick up trash, trim bushes, sweep carports and ask transients to leave. Hardgraves said residents referred the transients to shelters and social service agencies, but the police were eventually called when a couple of them refused to budge.

"We hated that we had to do this, but they can't be living there," she said.

The resident turnout was so impressive that Hardgraves said she hopes to organize neighborhood cleanups every month.

"It caught on like wildfire," she said.

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