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WOODLAND HILLS : Neighbors Stand Post on Street Against Vandals

In an attempt to present a human face to the student vandals who deface their property, nearly a dozen neighbors of El Camino Real High School have begun standing on street corners behind the school, introducing themselves to students on their way to class.

“Our intention is that we are non-confrontational,” said group member Judy Fischer, wearing the blue El Camino Real High School baseball uniform hat. “We want to be a physical presence so we can have good relations with the students.”

The group came together after a series of discussions with school administrators last spring. They decided that the best way to combat destruction of their property--which borders the back entrance of the school on Manton Avenue--would be to establish a rapport with students by being present on street corners before classes begin each morning. Martin King, the principal of the high school, said he understands the residents’ concerns.

“I have a lot of empathy for the neighbors, I’ve been one,” King said. “We’re trying to make an effort to be a good neighbor instead of being a pain.”

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Members of the group say that last year, aside from routine acts of loitering, tagging and littering, they saw teen-agers use their bushes for lewd acts and their lawns to relieve themselves.

“We don’t intend to let these kids take over our neighborhood,” said Stephen Silverstein, a group member whose kitchen window was smashed by a rock during school hours last year. Rusty and Don Gold were burglarized during the day last year, and believe the culprits were teen-agers.

“They took my nephew’s CDs and my son’s backpack,” Don Gold said. “Things adults wouldn’t take.”

But some of the students who gather at the back entrance of the school in the morning, to smoke, gossip or just hang out, likened the residents’ group to a secret police force.

“It’s kind of weird having people watch you,” Carlos Sanchez, 15, said. “It’s like they want to catch us doing something.”

Chris Mitchell, 16, said the residents’ presence was insulting.

“I think we’re mature enough to know what’s right and wrong,” he said. “How do they expect students to do good if they’re not going to trust us?”


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