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Condo Residents Seek More Patrols in Wake of Shootings

Safety: Deputies say they have already stepped up presence at Conejo Creek complex to curb gang violence.


NEWBURY PARK — In the wake of two shootings over the weekend, more than 200 residents of a troubled condominium complex met with Ventura County sheriff's officials Wednesday and circulated a petition asking for help to stop the violence.

Deputies meeting with residents of the Conejo Creek community said they have already stepped up patrols, but residents worried that the extra force might not be permanent.

"Our greatest fear has now been realized," said the petition, which was passed among the crowd. "Our petition will serve as an official request to the city of Thousand Oaks to provide better police surveillance. You must protect our children, our streets and our homes."

The meeting came after weekend shootings at or near the 540-unit complex left one man dead and another wounded. Police say the violence grew out of a cultural rivalry between a Salvadoran resident of the Conejo Creek complex and his Mexican neighbors.

This small neighborhood has seen violence before, but residents can't remember the last time the bloodshed was so visible. On Friday night, while neighbors talked and children played in front of their homes, two carloads of Salvadoran gang members from Van Nuys opened fire on the complex, killing 19-year-old Edgar Cruz and wounding his friend, Andres Morales, 18, police said.

On Sunday, the Van Nuys gang struck again, authorities say, shooting at a group on its way to Cruz's memorial service. No one was injured.

Since the shootings, sheriff's deputies have stepped up their patrols of the Conejo Creek complex, said Senior Deputy Harold Hanley, who has patrolled the area. Hanley said the Sheriff's Department will increase weekday patrols to one patrol car and two bicycle officers. Weekend patrols will increase to two patrol cars and two bicycle officers.

"When people are out and about, we plan on being there," he said.

But officials say there is no telling how long those patrols will continue. Residents fear when the furor over the recent shootings dies down, the patrols will become less frequent.

But Sheriff's Department officials say they will not abandon the neighborhood. In January, after a six-month trial period, a deputy stationed at the complex community center was withdrawn. Hanley said the Sheriff's Department could seek funding to station a deputy there again.

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