A standing-room-only crowd met at Virginia Park with Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts on Monday night to demand police protection from gang violence in their Pico and Sunset Park neighborhoods, in the southeast section of the city.
Butts, who has been on the job six weeks, was bombarded with complaints from residents stunned by a drive-by shooting last week that injured three people. Random shots were also fired recently at 9 a.m. near an elementary school in the area.
The crowd of more than 100 was not assuaged by Butts’ explanation that Santa Monica gangs are loosely organized, not well-armed, and not in the same league as other urban gangs.
Butts said he has deployed extra patrol cars to the Pico neighborhood and to Sunset Park in the wake of the drive-by shooting, which police think was the work of a Venice gang.
The chief advised residents to organize Neighborhood Watch groups and to be vigilant about painting out graffiti. He told the group he was proposing a curfew that would allow police to break up unruly groups of youths.