The main entrance of SAPD. Olivia Grace Morales/courtesy
In 2021 alone in the city of Santa Ana, California has had five major reported shootings – more than usual for the city. Santa Ana is primarily Latino and Santa Ana sheriffs said this is who most of the crimes are involved with. Here’s a list of the reported shootings that have happened this year alone:
In February alone, a man was shot in a Food 4 Less parking lot, one man was shot and killed in a drive by shooting. Three suspects have been identified and arrested. The suspects are Alfredo Ivan Pulido, Leonel Diaz and Jason Garcia. Another man was shot outside an illegal underground gambling location. Cops received a call about an unresponsive male with a gunshot wound to the stomach/chest area. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
Between March and May a man named Angel Manuel Villa was found in his driveway with a gunshot wound to the upper torso, a 24 year-old man was found shot dead with multiple gunshot wounds and a 6 year-old boy was shot in the stomach during a road rage incident on the freeway near Orange, California and Santa Ana, California.
Not only does the Santa Ana crime archives include these incidents, but it also includes a few other shootings that have happened in surrounding areas such as Orange, California.
Looking back on Internet searches of Santa Ana crimes, Santa Ana Police Department archives and on tag archives on newsantaana.com, this has been the most shootings in this short period of time in at least a couple years.
It is unclear if there is a correlation between all these shootings and why there has been so much more than an average amount reported.
Not only are shootings becoming more common in Santa Ana, but there has been a rise in other violent crimes as well – crimes such as robberies, carjackings and attempted home invasions.
Civil Attorney Jeffrey Katz and his wife Susan Muzila-Katz who are both Santa Ana residents share their first-hand experiences and have been witnesses to and rise in crime in their city. I ask them what they think is causing the rise in crime and what they’ve experienced while living in “the crime capital of Orange County,” according to Katz.
Katz and Muzila-Katz have even had a run-in with an illegal gambling site that was too close for comfort.
“We were on the verge of starting a neighborhood watch and we actually helped the police spot an illegal gambling thing going on a block away from where we live,” Katz said. “It was a P.C. repair shop fronting as a gambling location.”
Katz and Muzila-Katz brought up some good points regarding the pandemic winding down and more people being out and about and the possible loss of jobs because of COVID-19 leaving people homeless which could also be a lead to the increase in the homeless population coming to Santa Ana. Combining those factors with the drug problem with the homeless community and Santa Ana being a gang hub in Orange County, these are all factors having to do with the uptick in violent crimes in 2021.
“They lose their paycheck, then they lose their home and they’re living in their car. Then they lose their car, and then they’re living on the streets. And living on the streets is emotionally and extremely challenging and many do turn to drugs. It is a horrible cycle,” Katz said.
Katz shares his vision for what he would like to do for the homeless population of the city since Santa Ana has more homeless facilities and programs than any other city and what the state mandates in Orange County.
“What I would have liked to do is set up a place where people who are living in their cars, I would like for us to have a huge parking lot in the industrial section of town where these people can park, have showers and have bathrooms so they don’t have to go from their car to the streets,” Katz said.
Muzila-Katz elaborates on how community associations are trying to get a handle on the violence, drug problems and the homeless population to make sure everyone is safe. Katz is also the president of the Floral Park Association.
“All of the parks such as Floral Park have their own association and they really try very, very hard to try to make sure that people are watching out for each other,” Muzila-Katz said. “They’re trying to put in new programs and trying to help the homeless and to try to mitigate those issues but it’s been really tough.”
Katz shared a surprising observation – which was that a lot of the violent crimes going on in Santa Ana and bordering Garden Grove are coming from the Asian gangs. He also mentioned how violent crime rates have spiked since the start of the Black Lives Matter movement and the aftermath of George Floyd and that there has been a rise of the idea of defunding the police.
“There’s a remarkable amount of antagonism towards police in at least four out of the six wards of Santa Ana,” Katz said. “Even though about 65 percent to 70 percent of the police force in Santa Ana are Black or Brown, there’s still a lot of animosity between police and residents. We’ve seen across the country that when you have a reduction in police, there’s been an uptick in crimes. The murder rate has made a dramatic jump.”
Katz also shares that Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer and the Orange County District Attorney’s office is based in Santa Ana which handles criminal situations. Santa Ana is also the second-largest city in Orange County and also known as the “meth capital” according to Katz.
“Being known for as the ‘meth capital’ it will draw people here and when it draws people who are addicted to meth here, it’s a cycle,” Katz said.
Katz also adds about Santa Ana not only being a drug capital, but also a gang capital.
“We also have a major gang presence here. We do have Mexican mafia here. There’s a certain demographic here where being a part of a gang is legacy. A lot of the shootings that have happened in Santa Ana are gang-on-gang shootings,” Katz said.
Katz also mentions how there is a Gang Task Force for SAPD, but there is also cause for concern to keep the force because of there is talk about defunding this particular unit.
A lot of the shootings mentioned above have something to do with either drugs or gambling, so this new information from Katz is shedding some light on why crime rates have spiked so much.