About 300 people filled the auditorium of a Boyle Heights church Sunday to ask city officials to help them reduce the number of bars, stores and restaurants that sell liquor in their neighborhood and to crack down on public drunkenness.
Residents complained to Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Police Capt. William A. Fierro that it's not unusual to see people drinking in the parks or on sidewalks near schools. They also expressed concern that many stores and bars sell alcohol to minors.
Jose Carrillo, who has lived in Boyle Heights for 21 years, presented the results of a recent survey conducted by Boyle Heights residents and organizers from the Pacific Institute for Community Organization. They walked a six-block area around East 1st and 4th streets and counted the number of liquor stores, bars, restaurants and mini-markets that sell alcohol.
Carrillo clicked through color slides showing each of the establishments the group found, encouraging the crowd in Spanish, "Count with me!" A chorus of voices counted in Spanish to 23.
"This is not what I want for my children, my community," he told the councilman and the police captain. The crowd clapped loudly in agreement.
Villaraigosa said that for the last two months he and Fierro have been cracking down on 10 bars and liquor stores that have been selling alcohol to intoxicated people and minors and allowing public drunkenness.
The councilman also encouraged people to make crime reports when they see bars selling to underage customers or people drinking alcohol in parks. "We can increase the number of targets if we're working with all of you," he said.
Fierro, whose Hollenbeck Division oversees Boyle Heights and other nearby areas, also promised to work on the neighborhood's alcohol-related problems. He explained that by later this week, bicycle patrols will return to the streets to enforce laws against drinking in public.
"I think the Boyle Heights-Hollenbeck area has a problem with alcohol overall," the captain said in an interview before the meeting. "The drunk-driving arrests and accidents are very high. The number of liquor licenses is very high."
Families attending the meeting said they were pleased that the authorities shared their concerns.
Jaime Hernandez, 25, said he's bothered by the number of people drinking alcohol at Evergreen Park.
"It's gotten so bad you can't enjoy a day with the kids without public drunkenness.... As an adult with a small family, I'm fed up."
Janet Garcia, a 12-year-old at Hollenbeck Middle School, said she sees men and women drinking in the streets on her way to school everyday.