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Neighbors upset at crime wave

Posted: June 26, 2008 1:37 a.m.
Updated: August 27, 2008 5:03 a.m.

A group of Saugus homeowners is tired of what they say is a crime wave in their midst, and they let sheriff's deputies know all about it at a recent neighborhood meeting.

Residents of Catala Avenue allege that the culprits live among them, though sheriff's deputies have yet to make an official connection. "I moved here from Hollywood to be safe," Suzanne Olch said during the June 18 meeting at Highlands Elementary School. "Now this happens."

Olch was one of nearly 100 agitated residents at the meeting, voicing concerns to deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station. Nearly half of them said their vehicles have been stolen or broken into. They said they all live within one or two blocks of each other.

Catala Avenue is located near Saugus High School on the west side of the Los Angeles Aqueduct pipeline. A number of residents alleged the perpetrators are a group of young adults who live in the neighborhood, whom they say do nothing but party by day and physically threaten residents or break into vehicles by night.

"Let's be careful here," Deputy Pat Rissler told the anxious crowd. "(You're) assuming that these teenagers are the culprits. Nothing has been proven yet."

Rissler added that deputies responded to the house in question 80 different times in 2007, but no crimes or violations of law were ever discovered. Rissler and Deputy Laurie Baylis, both with the Sheriff's Station's Community Relations and Crime Prevention Unit, tried to reassure the residents that last week's meeting was the first step in solving the problem.

"Most diseases are cured by taking medication," Deputy Doug DeCesare said at one point. "This is what we are trying to do - cure the situation."

Some people at the meeting went so far as to blame deputies, saying that they were non-responsive and allowed the alleged crime spree to continue unabated.

Rissler said that since residents began contacting the Sheriff's Station on a regular basis, deputies have made three arrests, towed two cars and issued two citations.

"All the complaints directed toward us are put in the past," said Baylis, who added that 21 people in the area signed up for Neighborhood Watch programs after the meeting. "We're now working together from today forward."

Detective Phil Morris with the Sheriff's Station's Narcotics Bureau tried to put it all in perspective.

"People in Compton, they gave up," he calmly said to the residents. "That town went to crap.

"Don't give up on your neighborhood. Whatever you do, don't give up."


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