Sacto 9-1-1
October 9, 2008
Police: Gang graffiti mars Sayonara Drive area of Citrus Heights

ATT338468.jpgFrom David Richie:

While Citrus Heights officials try to tighten their grip on the Sayonara Drive area, residents and local police continue to be challenged by elusive gang members or wanna-bees who also are trying to claim the long-beleaguered neighborhood.

Residents came out outside Wednesday morning to discover freshly spray-painted gang graffiti on fences (left photo) and vehicles parked in driveways. The tagging occurred at several locations along Sayonara Drive and farther west on San Simeon Drive, where fourplex and duplex rental units give way to single-family homes. The mix of gang references, obscenities and challenges on the fences was still visible Wednesday afternoon. Mothers pushed babies in strollers along the sidewalk and tough-looking young men in loud cars twisted around to view the scrawls.

Lt. Jeff Mackanin, who supervises the police department's community policing efforts, said the tagging appeared to be the work of members of a specific Latino gang (Surenos) or individuals who would like to be associated with that group. No arrests had been made Wednesday afternoon. A problem-oriented policing officer would be investigating the incident. Citrus Heights does not have any large population of gang members, but most of the city's gang-related activity seems to come out of the Sayonara Drive area, Mackanin said.

That is one of the reasons why the city is targeting the area with so many resources.

"We had our first Neighborhood Watch meeting out there recently," Mackanin said, noting that 15 to 20 residents attended that first session.

James Lynch, manager of the city's Community Enhancement Division, said that he was aware of the vandalism. Notices were being sent to property owners requiring them to cover up the graffiti as soon as possible. A city crew would handle clean-up in public areas, Lynch said.

"It is somebody trying to mark turf," Lynch said.

Meanwhile city officials are moving ahead with redevelopment plans for the Sayonara Drive area that are more far-reaching than any can of spray paint, Lynch said.

Today, community development staff members will seek authorization from the City Council to purchase another boarded up fourplex in the 7800 block of Sayonara Drive. The purchase is expected to cost just over $200,000.

The city has already purchased on fourplex on Sayonara Drive. Long-range plans may involve restoration of the properties. They also may be demolished to decrease the overall density along Sayonara Drive.

Demolition could provide space for a playground or similar use in the area, which is considered a community development nightmare, Lynch said. There has never been a play space for the dozens of children who live along Sayonara Drive, so they end up in the street or in the driveways.

The city has already made several improvements in the area, including street repaving, implementation of traffic calming strategies and introduction of streetlights.

"It is now one of the best illuminated streets in the county," Lynch said.

Residents on San Simeon Drive said they are aware of all the improvements going on just a few blocks away. They would like to see more streetlights and similar improvements on their street too but right now they said they feel like "orphans."

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