Lead Story West Edition

Rise in homicides troubles Compton residents

COMPTON — Residents here are up in arms over an increase in homicides this year and are angry at City Hall for not doing enough to stop the rise in violence.

Through the end of May, 13 people have been killed in the city this year, compared with four for the first five months of 2015.

In response to continued public outcry, several public meetings, vigils and press conferences have taken place recently to address the increase in violence and to discuss solutions.

Mayor Aja Brown along with officials of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Councilwoman Janna Zurita and her sister, Compton school board President Satra Zurita, and Assemblyman Mike Gipson have all held public meetings to comfort concerned Compton residents.

Satra Zurita, said she is fed up with the murder surge, but emphasizes that Compton still has a lot of positive developments amidst the violence.

“There are many good things that are going on in our city, more than often are reported,” she told The Wave. “But what makes us nervous — and even scared — is this violence that has erupted in our city. We have to get this right. The first thing we have to do is admit that Compton has a problem.”

Like other vocal residents, Zurita looks to City Hall to implement certain public safety initiatives, like more public surveillance cameras.

“Something as simple as properly maintaining our surveillance cameras will help deter the murders,” Zurita said. “Residents are telling us that the city needs to move faster to improve maintenance and replacement of the surveillance cameras.”

Resident Kee Ster said, “Cameras are needed on all streets, avenues, boulevards, and major thoroughfares. There has to be a way to get it done.”

Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Thatcher said, “The cameras are an important crime prevention tool that can also improve policing.

“Functioning cameras help us investigate crimes and potentially help hold all of us, those of us in law enforcement and in the community, accountable for our actions. That’s why it’s so important that the maintenance on these cameras be upgraded soon.”

While most of the violence involves young male gang members, one of the killings involved a year-old toddler who was shot in the head as she stood in her crib last February.

The death of Autumn Johnson drew national attention for a short time, but that quickly faded, leaving some to wonder why.

“I find it disheartening there is not more public outrage over this murder,” said Rosa Contresses. “No [Black Lives Matter] protests, community activists denouncing gang warfare, Hillary, Bernie, or the president mentioning this outrage.”

“It was so sad for this precious child to have to lose her life like that before it even began,” Christian King said. “What kind of cowardly person shoots up a house with a mom and her baby inside?”

Mourning family members were present at Assemblyman Gipson’s public gatherings to shed light on the killings last month.

“There are those in Sacramento who feel any additional gun control laws are unnecessary,” Gipson told the crowd. “They are wrong.”

Gibson has authored Assembly Bill 1673 to make ghost guns, weapons without serial numbers that are not registered and cannot be traced, a crime.

While the Zurita sisters and Gipson held individual public events, Mayor Brown and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department partnered to hold a community press conference earlier this month.

Brown’s critics maintained that Compton City Hall is not doing enough to address the problem.

At the press conference, Brown tried to sugarcoat the increase in murders here, her critics said, by stating that Compton’s recent violence is not an isolated case. She pointed out that crime is up all over Los Angeles County.

Janna Zurita said the mayor needs to do more to safeguard the city.

“I’ve been pressing city management to move faster to make sure that the citywide cameras are working as they should and they are being monitored,” Zurita said.

Councilwoman Tana McCoy agreed with Zurita that the city wasn’t doing enough to stop the killings.

“For our city, public safety is of the highest priority. I have communicated that again this week to our city management,” McCoy said.