South Mountain community holds meeting on recent violent crimes

From Southern Avenue to Vineyard Road, between 26th and 24th streets in Phoenix, since May 1, there has been one murder and a host of other violent crimes, and the neighborhood is tired of it.

The community gathered together for a meeting Sept. 22 demanding something be done and for police to be more present.

"There's been at least 9 shootings in the last 10 days," one community member said at the meeting held at House of Helps in south Phoenix.

Cynthia Lozaro is the founder of the Damien Gosa Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps young people stay out of trouble, and House of HELPS, a worship center.

Lozaro says they're asking Phoenix Police to be more present, and help to prevent the violent crimes plaguing the neighborhood.

"We're asking for interaction with the residents of this neighborhood and we also are asking people the community to come together because there is power in numbers and we can end this senseless violence," Lozaro said.

Phoenix Police Officer Nicholas Diponzio is the commander of the South Mountain Precinct, and says the city of Phoenix is seeing a 25% uptick in crime in the city.

Victims' ages range from late teens and early 20s in this particular neighborhood.

"There's not really one central nexus as to why these crimes are taking place and the Phoenix Police Department is trying their hardest to respond to these and try to be more active," Diponzio said.

Residents believe COVID-19 may be playing a part in the crimes because of fewer programs to keep kids busy and off the streets.

"The kids, they don't have anything to do. They're not in school so they're hanging out and it's an opportunity for the rif rafs, drug dealers and gang bangers to recruit them," Lozaro said.

Antoine Young Sr. is the chairman for the Damien Gosa Foundation, and says, "The kids don't have that positive reinforcement that programs that Damien Gosa provide -- particularly to this community in the afternoon after school program lined up for children of all ages."

Phoenix Police say they have a message for the community as well. They say that they need community members to assist them in solving these crimes and speak up when they know something and use Silent Witness to stay anonymous at 480-WITNESS.