Does La Puente offer enough activities to keep kids off the streets?

Residents express mixed views

Marlene Cordova, Community News Reporter

Keeping children off the streets is key to reducing violence in La Puente, according to interviews with residents and youth experts. That’s because much of the violence in town stems from Puente 13, a street gang in the area, according to a story in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Residents report still feeling shaken by recent shootings. There were five shootings in four days in La Puente this summer. Then, there was a fatal shooting in November and a double shooting in December, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and NBC-LA, respectively.

A UT Community News story in November identified one of the problems in unincorporated cities such as La Puente: If they can’t afford their own police departments, they contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – and the amount of service they get depends on their budget.

Joanna Raygoza. Photo courtesy of Joanna Raygoza.
Joanna Raygoza. Photo courtesy of Joanna Raygoza.

City officials had said they’re working on obtaining more funding and working with programs such as the business and neighborhood watch programs to decrease crime.

“Gangs, to me, are dumb and the events that happened last summer made me scared to go out at night,” said Joanna Raygoza, a La Puente resident.

Some people who live and work in La Puente said they feel the city needs more recreational activities for children, which could help make the streets safer in the long-term.

Juan Antonio Sanchez
Marlene Cordova
Juan Antonio Sanchez

“The kids around this area don’t have any parks for free time. They have nothing so they come and hang out here,” at or near the school, said Angela Biltonen, office manager at Northam Elementary School. “I’ve seen parents bring their kids here on a hot day. I do think that centers, parks, sports, help kids. I have three daughters and they all played sports.”

In his experience, Juan Antonio Sanchez, a La Puente resident, said the city has some “good extracurricular activities.” That said, he thinks more could help as would beefing up safety: “I have lived in La Puente my whole life….I heard about the shooting in July…It scares me for my kids.”