Mayor Richard Riordan, campaigning for a second term, spent about two hours Sunday at the Valley Alliance of the Jewish Federation in West Hills, making about 10 calls to potential contributors and raising about $50,000 in pledges for the group’s campaign to raise $1.2 million for the United Jewish Fund.
Riordan, 66, shook volunteers’ hands at the West Hills fund-raiser, which is part of the effort by the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles to raise funds for humanitarian and social services worldwide.
He told The Times that the Neighborhood Watch volunteer from Northridge who was shot to death last week as he and his wife were leaving a night-school English class was “a role model.” Citizens should not let the ambush slaying frighten them from getting involved in the crime prevention groups, Riordan said.
“People care about their community, and they are going to keep giving of themselves,” he said. The victim, Pedro Banegas, 42, a Honduran immigrant, was a Neighborhood Watch block captain and a security guard whose tough, aggressive approach to gang members and criminals is thought to have led to his killing Thursday night. Banegas had received several death threats and had filed a police complaint about being assaulted by a vandal.
No arrests have been made.
“He was someone who gave to his community,” Riordan said. “His was too great a life to lose.”
Gang violence is a top issue in the mayoral campaign between Riordan and state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles).
Riordan has urged attorneys to seek injunctions to prohibit gang members from harassing, threatening or assaulting people, and congregating in public view.
While Riordan has focused on adding police officers and equipment to help combat crime, Hayden, 57, has concentrated more on dealing with the causes of crime.
On Sunday, Riordan acknowledged the importance of crime prevention and a “tough but caring approach” to solving the gang problem. “You have to have a strong law enforcement side that sets limits,” he said. “But on the other side, you have to have intervention, particularly at the younger ages . . . so that they have child care and early education so when they grow older they have no need to join gangs.”
Although Sunday’s event came during the mayoral campaign, Riordan said he would have participated in it regardless, as he has for the last two years, alternating between the Valley Alliance and the downtown federation facilities on Wilshire Boulevard.
Nevertheless, Riordan’s visit had all the trappings of a campaign swing. He high-fived children, talked to teenagers staffing telephones, and gave anyone who asked a chance to pose for a picture with him.