Editor: I was stunned the other day when the manager of one of the shops in the Food For Less/Ross shopping center at R and Olive described to me how a customer came running into their store shouting that there were shots being fired at the apartments only a few hundred feet across the street from them. The manager's reaction was to lock-down the store and make all of the customers move to the back and wait for the all clear.
My daughter works in that store, I shop at that store and in that center, I shop at that Save Mart, at the Petsmart, and we eat at the Pizza Villa. We are up and down those streets and in the area constantly. I've been told that the area averages about one shooting per month. I've talked to people who live in those apartments and told how scared they are. I've seen and heard the small kids from those apartments brag among themselves as they walk home on how they intimidated some store employee and stole from them. I've seen the older kids giving them advice and encouraging them. I've heard the first-hand accounts from the store employees.
I got called to jury duty last month and it was for the shooting death behind the 99 cent store last year.
Merced, we have a huge problem with Loughbrough Drive and the adjoining area. The store employees are helpless and very much at risk, everyone living in that area is at risk and any of us on those streets or shopping in those areas are very much at risk, and here we watch these young kids being drawn into the fold and trained in the art of this violence and savagery. Do we have a community plan? Is this really being taken seriously?
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This is right in the heart of our community, right in the middle of the stores we all shop in. Stray bullets don't ask questions, they won't care if you don't belong to the rival gang. Gang dares and hazings can and will involve all of us. My hands are tied, I've not been hired to serve and protect and preserve the peace and health and safety of this community. My only power seems to lie in my ability to try and get more attention focused on this issue. So that is what I will beg for, that everyone in this community should take issue with this problem and lets push to have a working plan for solving it. The longer it continues, the more children will be lost in to it, the more ingrained it will be, the more numb we will be until something horrible happens. Lets get on this now, it's already gone on far too long and gotten way to out of hand. Now, it needs to be dealt with now. And we can't put it off for fear of retribution.