Vicotorville City Council Addresses Violence in Brentwood
By Eliz Dowdy
Two weeks ago the news of five people wounded, and one teen killed rocked southern California. It brought Channel 7 ABC News mobile unit to the area, and practically every print media in southern California carried the news. This level of violence shocked even those familiar with violent activity on a regular basis.
However, for the city of Victorville and especially the Brentwood housing tract, it opened old wounds; the wounds of affordable housing in the new sub-divisions and the problems of homeowners who live nearby.
The discussions fall along the familiar lines of lack of parental restraints, noisy late night parties, and gang activities. The hot button issue on the council's agenda heard from police Captain Don Yoder, who brought a slide presentation on city crime. He stated his department must have probable cause, such as a citizen-related phone call to deal with housing problems. He also cited a Department of Justice investigation that is currently underway where police actions were targeted to residents of Section 8 housing using search warrants and arrests as the weapons of choice against these families who are primarily Black and Latino. Mayor Ryan McEachron said he thought Victorville was “being dumped” upon in terms of the number of affordable housing units in the city in comparison with Rancho Cucamonga and other San Bernardino county cities.
After much lively discussion the council unanimously approved the public hearing portion of an ordinance which would expand the police department's handling of unruly gatherings without receiving complaints from neighboring residents. Ordinance No. 2275 would charge two or more people, property owners, or residents with fines ranging from $500.00 to $3,000.00 depending upon the number of disturbances reported from loud noises to vehicles blocking roadways or driveways.
The number of homes in Victorville is 32,000, with 2,400 of those homes comprising Brentwood. Of those 2,400 homes, 111 are affordable housing, according to David Zook, representing First District Supervisor Brad Mitzenfelt. He stated the last time the Housing Authority accepted applications for affordable housing occurred in 2007 when 22,000 applications were submitted. Zook stated an extensive 10-year federal background check is conducted among successful applicants. No one is accepted with a violent or drug-related past. What is more, Section 8 housing accounts for 1 to 4 percent of each city's population. There is no dumping by anyone because the Housing Authority doesn't decide where participants move; the participants receive vouchers and decide where to live.
Captain Yoder also stated that crime is down in the Brentwood area by 2 percent compared to this time in 2010, and only accounts for 5 percent of the total calls the police receive.
A couple that lives in Brentwood spoke during the public hearing; they said that a family in their immediate neighborhood, identified by the landlord as Section 8, has four children who run wild and there appears to be a lack of parental control.
The violence that sparked the council's discussing the problem was not a Section 8 household; the homeowner spoke with the Precinct Reporter and stated her deceased husband’s pension pays the mortgage. The party at her residence was for her granddaughter. The event was billed on Facebook as a stripper-themed party; informed sources stated this was to bring more people to the party as they charged $1.00 per head to attend, and no alcohol was served. The violence occurred at a residence around the corner, the Precinct Reporter was told by one of the victims wounded in the shooting, the party's resident owner, and the grandfather of a second victim of the violence.
The age-old question remains: are renters and low wage earners undesirable, have low morals and a built-in propensity for acts of violence? The action taken by the Victorville City Council cannot answer these questions, but providing alternative activities for the youth, letting them know they have opportunities that their parents could not achieve may be much closer to lasting peace between all factions involved.