‘I’m Fed Up’ : Street Crime in Van Nuys Spurs Protest March

Times Staff Writer

Saying they are tired of feeling unsafe, about 90 people marched through Van Nuys on Saturday protesting prostitution and drug dealing in their neighborhoods.

“I’m fed up, I’m tired, I’m angry. These are our streets; these are our homes,” said Mary Lou Holte, a Van Nuys woman who last month founded Town Keepers, a Neighborhood Watch group dedicated to fighting criminal activity along Sepulveda Boulevard and nearby thoroughfares.

Organized by Holte’s group, marchers from Van Nuys and crime watch groups from other neighborhoods walked a 3 1/2-mile course along Van Nuys, Victory and Sepulveda boulevards and chanted anti-drug slogans. Some pedestrians who saw them cheered and applauded as the marchers passed; others just stared.


Authorities said nearby residents have good reason to be concerned about prostitution and drug problems in the area. Sepulveda Boulevard north of Victory is one of the major areas for drug sales and prostitution pickups in the San Fernando Valley, said Los Angeles Police Lt. Robert Swanson.

Sandy Milano, a Town Keepers member who lives in an apartment building on Sepulveda, said she is tired of witnessing drug deals on her street and intends to help police drive dealers off her block.

Threatened by Drug Dealers

“I have had drug dealers threaten me because I have seen them do drug deals,” she said. “I’m gonna take down license-plate numbers, take pictures, anything I can do to help the police to get them out.”

Dawn Carpenter, another Town Keepers member who lives on Sepulveda, said the area’s reputation for prostitution means that she and other women are frequently harassed.

“I try to walk to the market, and people think I am a hooker,” she said. “Even our landlady--she’s 76--they stop her.”

Emma Lewis, 34, of Van Nuys was marching with her 10-year-old daughter, 9-year-old son and a neighbor’s child. She said she learned of the march from a flyer distributed at her children’s elementary school. She said she decided to participate to encourage her children to resist pressure to join gangs.


“There is some gang activity around our home, and I really feel for my kids,” she said. “I try to talk to them and keep them up-to-date about what’s going on. I think they are still pretty straight kids.”

Holte, who had two ribs broken during an assault in October, said she believes that the march is a first step in getting community members to begin to actively fight crime in their neighborhoods.

“We have to take a stand,” she said. “We are gonna clean the drugs dealers out of those apartments.”