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East Village Residents Concerned About Neighborhood

— Living in Downtown San Diego’s East Village means being close to a lot of the city’s main attractions. But the urban lifestyle also brings with it several challenges. KPBS reporter Katie Orr attended an East Village community forum during the weekend to hear the concerns of residents and business owners.

People filled a meeting room at Petco Park to talk about some of the problems facing the neighborhood. A lot the discussion centered on encounters with homeless people and how best to handle them. Police Captain Christopher Bell says a lot of the concerns people have come with the territory when someone chooses to live in an urban neighborhood. He says problems like homelessness have to be dealt with on a social level.

“I don’t think we spend as much time as we could or should do in identifying the specific issues, what are the specific issues and then going after those issues one by one. I think everyone is looking for a magic pill, and the point I made is I think many people think the magic pill is the police department,” he says.

But Bell says the police can’t solve a lot of the problems in the East Village. For instance, he says it’s not illegal to be homeless and he can’t arrest someone for that. But business owner Gary Laliberte says he’s frustrated with the drug dealers and panhandlers his customers have to pass to get to his dog grooming shop.

“I had a vision for this area to be a lot nicer, if you will, by this time. I mortgaged heavily to open this shop and it looked like it was headed in the right direction for awhile,” he says.

Laliberte says if things don’t improve by this time next year he might relocate. Some people in the East Village are trying to take action. Several expressed interest in forming a neighborhood watch to try to prevent crime.

Katie Orr, KPBS News

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