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Troubling crime trend needs serious discussion

August 22, 2002

For several years now, Huntington Beach has been labeled a "safe

city." Most residents probably feel safe and secure living, working

and playing here. And rightly so.

Surf City is certainly safer than many other cities, and our

police work diligently to make it so.

But as readers reflect on the happenings -- both good and bad --

here in Huntington Beach, we at the Independent felt we would be

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remiss in not asking police if the three murders in the Oakview

neighborhood since May are something we should be concerned about.

Their answer was no. They called the murders anomalies.

Maybe so -- we'd like to think so. Yet, we caution against

brushing off the violence of the past few months prematurely.

After nearly three years without a reported homicide in the city,

the Oakview community was shocked and devastated when Oscar Gaytan,

18 and Heriberto Tapia Vasquez, 16, were brutally shot to death in

the early morning hours of May 11.

Then on May 28, a young boy was

critically wounded when he was shot in the chest at an

intersection in that same neighborhood. A maroon Cadillac was seen

fleeing the scene.

On July 29, 19-year-old Ernesto Duarte was found dead in an alley

in the Oakview neighborhood of a gunshot wound to the upper chest.

On Friday night, a man was shot in the arm at a stop light, when

the passenger of a maroon Cadillac fired a flurry of shots at him

before fleeing the scene.

The killings broke the city's nearly three-year streak without a

homicide.

While we know the police take these crimes very seriously, and

have in fact already identified a possible suspect in the murders of

Gaytan and Vasquez, we just hope they are not too quick to brush off

the possibility that a deadly trend of violence has emerged in the

Oakview neighborhood.

A trend that just may need extra attention in the coming months.

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