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Taking Back Neighborhoods by the Block : Praiseworthy Orange County Together Dishes Out More of Same to Deserving Groups

November 13, 1994

Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, Orange County residents have fought back against gangs, criminals and the fear they cause. In a number of cities, residents and police have scored notable successes worthy of recognition and praise.

The group Orange County Together, which deserves praise itself, gave awards to individuals and police last month as a way to encourage community policing. That concept centers on neighborhood involvement, getting police out of cars to talk to residents and learn what is going on, and getting help from government agencies to help cure problems.

One honoree was Elodia Gonzalez, who once was afraid to clean up her Anaheim yard because she knew drug peddlers and their friends had used it as a dumping ground for syringes and condoms. But Gonzalez pounded on the doors of City Hall and got help and energy from Orange County Congregation Community Organization, a church-based coalition of community groups that has been active in getting neighborhoods to organize. She persuaded 10 of her neighbors to speak out at a meeting with city officials, overcoming fear of gang retribution.

The next week police assigned a community action team to Gonzalez' neighborhood. Crime rates went down, the drug dealers disappeared, and Gonzalez became less fearful of letting her two daughters go outside her home.

Garden Grove police won an award as well, which they shared with a residents' group that began a newsletter and organized tenants and landlords to start improving a crime-ridden street, Stuart Drive. Garden Grove had already won a $660,000 federal grant for community policing, and used some of those funds to expand a police officer's effort to improve the Stuart Drive area.

Orange County Together was founded after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Cobbled together by the Orange County Human Relations Commission and United Way of Orange County, funded by county businesses, the group has done good work in identifying the county's problems and trying to find solutions. The awards are a good example of that work. They are deserved recognition that police need help from the community and that although much work remains to be done, the efforts thus far are appreciated.

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