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SPECIAL REPORT

A Shaken Community Fights for Its Children : Great Neighbors, Quiet Street

Family: Though crime concerns them, the Delgados encourage their children to study hard, play sports and pursue hobbies.

September 08, 1996|ERIC WAHLGREN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

OXNARD — Like many of their neighbors on a quiet stretch of E Street, the Delgados settled in this south-central Oxnard community because they could afford to buy a home where their children could walk to nearby parks and schools.

Although a grisly series of killings has marked their community as the deadliest area in Ventura County so far this year, the violence has not reached their street, and Yolanda and Carlos Delgado can tick off many reasons for raising their four children here.

On this particular block, residents drop in on each other after work just to chat, and neighborhood kids often flock to the Delgados' house after school to climb around on the family's jungle gym.

"We really haven't experienced anything around here," said 34-year-old Yolanda Delgado. "We have great neighbors and it is quiet on our street. But the crime worries us a bit."

The crime problem weighed more heavily on Carlos Delgado's mind about three years after the couple bought their prim, three-bedroom house in 1989, prompting him to become a leader of the local Neighborhood Watch group.

Within a few weeks, residents chased drug users out of nearby Beck Park for good by calling the police and shining spotlights on the mostly young men who used to collect in the park at night.

"We wanted to make it safe for the kids so they could play outside," Carlos Delgado said.

But although he still volunteers with the group, Carlos said he and his wife now spend most of their time balancing the need to pay the bills with a desire to always be there for their children.

Carlos leaves the house at 3:30 p.m. to begin his night shift as a mechanic for Basic Vegetable Products just after Yolanda returns from McKinna Elementary School where she works as a bilingual aide.

After work and on weekends, the Delgados are often busy shuttling to various sports games and other events in which their children participate.

An eighth-grader at Frank Intermediate School, 13-year-old Carlos Jr. plays basketball, football and soccer at school and in summer leagues. Karla, a 16-year-old senior at Hueneme High School, is a cheerleader for the football and basketball teams and plans to attend college next year.

Although the Delgados worry about the gangs that flourish in the area, the best way they can keep their children off the streets, they say, is to encourage them to study hard, play sports and pursue hobbies.

"I tell my son, 'Choose your friends,' " Yolanda Delgado said. " 'If you see trouble, go a different direction.' "

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