City officials are urging residents of Littleton’s northeast neighborhood to band together to ward off crime and other problems there.
“You guys are the eyes and the ears of the neighborhood,” said Mark Barons, the city’s neighborhood resources coordinator. “I would encourage you to talk about organizing.”
About a dozen neighbors attended a meeting May 23 at Littleton Center to discuss the situation, which came to a head last October in the form of a fatal shootout that teens in the neighborhood said was the result of warring gangs.
“I can’t wait to get out of this neighborhood, sadly,” said one young mom who witnessed the alleged perpetrators running across her lawn. She said random acts of violence are one thing, but it’s a much bigger problem when violence becomes a part of a neighborhood’s culture.
Littleton Police Officer Bryan Lynch said the area has calmed down quite a bit since the shooting. Many of the troublemakers have moved, she said, and three of them are in jail since the incident, which left 18-year-old Da Von Flores dead in the street.
Lynch noted that National Night Out will be back this year after falling victim to budget cuts last year. She urged the neighbors to participate by holding a block party.
“It’s making a show of neighborhood solidarity, and showing criminals you’re not cowering in your houses,” she said.
Police Cmdr. Sean Dugan urged people to call police whenever they see something even a little suspicious. Sometimes people are afraid police will identify them to the suspect, or they just don’t want to “bother” the officers. Neither is true, he said.
“We have important things to do, but probably not more important things to do,” said Dugan. “Call us. We’ll send four or five officers there. We’ll saturate that area, and if enough of that happens, they’ll go elsewhere.”
Dugan said the new chief, Douglas Stephens, has already talked about reinstituting community teams. Until last summer, LPD maintained a special-enforcement team focused on gangs, drugs, graffiti, sex offenders and similar crimes. The team was disbanded due to vacancies in the department, and the officers were reassigned to patrol.
Several neighbors commented that they’ve noticed distinct improvements in things like crosswalks, sidewalks and general cleanliness. Denise Stephens, director of economic development, said the city has focused its community-development block grants from the county on the neighborhood for capital improvements, and Rebecca Thompson, senior code specialist, said they’ve stepped up code enforcement in the area.
“We look for things that as you drive around the neighborhood make you think, ‘I wouldn’t want to live there,’” she said.
Kimberly Kingston with South Metro Housing Options noted the agency can help with a wide variety of grants and loans for homeowners and renters alike, intended to help maintain properties.
“I think the city government does a really great job of supporting the community; it’s just a matter of getting the word out,” said Lynch.