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Controversy Grows Over Annexation : Police Issue Splits Cabrillo Village Residents

NEIGHBORHOODS. One in an occasional series


Pancho Garcia, a 62-year-old retired farm laborer, has lived in Cabrillo Village for 30 years. In a few months, his neighborhood will become part of the city of Ventura, and he's pleased at the idea of changing from a county to city resident.

"The gangs are a problem," Garcia said. "The sheriff's deputies don't come too much. The police will come here more."

But down the street from Garcia, 26-year-old Steven Tellez, who was raised in Cabrillo, is far from happy about the annexation.

"It sucks," Tellez said. "We have enough coverage from the sheriff's. Ventura police always feel we're up to something. We don't get bothered by the sheriff's deputies."

Cabrillo Village is an unincorporated island, surrounded by the city of Ventura. City officials want to annex the 32-acre neighborhood to reduce confusion in providing police protection for the area.

As the annexation draws closer, Cabrillo Village residents say the topic has generated a lot of controversy within the tight-knit Latino community on Ventura's east end. One resident, who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation, said a neighbor's tires were slashed after a local newspaper quoted him as favoring the annexation.

Another Cabrillo Village resident, who also declined to give his name, said the neighborhood is divided on the annexation issue because it will involve switching from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department to the Ventura Police Department.

"The adults want it because they think more police will come, and the kids are against it because of the police supervision," he said.

What began as a farm laborers camp in the 1930s has blossomed into a sizable Latino enclave on the edge of Ventura, sandwiched between the Santa Clara River and the Southern Pacific railroad tracks, just west of Saticoy Avenue.

The Ventura City Council will initiate the annexation at its meeting tonight. Cabrillo Village, which has 154 apartments and houses owned by the first cooperative housing association ever formed in Ventura County, is scheduled to be annexed later this spring.

Of Cabrillo's 1,000 residents, only 90 showed up at a meeting two weeks ago to vote on the annexation. Seventy-seven voted in favor, 13 against.

Those who favor annexation do so because they want better service from city police than they say they receive from county deputies.

"It's good because we will have more police," said Benito Martinez, 53. "They should come here at night; we have curfew problems."

But some youths in the community say they fear being hassled frequently by Ventura police officers, and are not pleased with the impending changeover in law enforcement.

A few weeks ago, Ventura police met with Cabrillo residents and warned that they will cite parents of teen-agers who repeatedly violate the city's 10 p.m. curfew.

Cruz Muro, 90, who has lived in Cabrillo Village for 40 years, said he is afraid that the increased police presence will result in a tragedy later.

"The police will come in here and kill one of the kids," Muro said.

Law enforcement officials say the low-income neighborhood is not a major crime problem. Still, older residents and parents say that beginning in the late 1980s, the community began experiencing gang problems.

The Cabrillo Campers, a gang of about 30 youths from the neighborhood, has a strong rivalry with the Ventura Avenue Gangsters, police said.

"There's been an ongoing beef between the two groups," said Sgt. Carl Handy, who heads Ventura police's gang unit.

That rivalry reached a violent climax in 1989, when a fatal shooting erupted in the neighborhood. Two men, who were not gang members, were killed in a drive-by shooting as they left a baptism party with a group of friends. Two other men were wounded in the attack by the Ventura Avenue gang.

According to the Sheriff's Department, battery, shootings and vandalism have increased in the neighborhood since 1988, and the nature of the calls has become more serious.

Cabrillo Village is being annexed at the request of the Local Agency Formation Commission, a state-sponsored county panel that regulates changes in boundaries for cities and other agencies.

The city of Ventura has already annexed parcels of land on two sides of Cabrillo Village for new housing subdivisions.

The biggest change that will occur from the annexation is the switch in law enforcement agencies, city officials said. Cabrillo has received fire protection from the city, as well as water, sewer and trash services, for some time. Cabrillo also has some city-sponsored recreation programs, and children in the neighborhood already attend school in Ventura.

The new housing developments to the east and west of Cabrillo Village could also have a long-term effect on the area, some residents say. The Paloma and North Bank Green subdivisions, which total about 250 homes, are being built and sold now.

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