Longtime Cypress Road residents like Mary Lou Juarez and Elizabeth Wolfel say their usually quiet working-class neighborhood is “just fine” for the most part.
“But once I go in my house, I don’t leave,” says Juarez, who has lived in the South Oxnard neighborhood since 1975.
“You tend to come home and mind your own business,” said Wolfel, who can point out its busiest drug houses, one of them around the corner from the home she shares with her mother and 16-year-old daughter.
But the recent shooting of 78-year-old Ruben Alfaro as he sat in a van across from his sister’s bungalow — not far down the street from her house — spurred Wolfel into action.
“Something set in with this shooting. It’s got everybody scared,” said Wolfel, who represents the neighborhood in Oxnard’s Inter-Neighborhood Council Forum. “It’s been bad for a while but (now) it’s scary — it’s not the kind of neighborhood where you want to raise your kids.”
Alfaro’s sister Maria Sanchez says she is nervous at night and no longer comfortable in the bungalow, staying with friends or relatives whenever she can.
“He was nice. We’d sometimes fight like brother and sister, but he helped pay my rent,” Sanchez said of Alfaro, adding that she is now in danger of being evicted for missing the rent.
Spurred into action by the shooting, Wolfel organized a peace march to symbolically take the neighborhood back from drug-dealing gang members.
“I care about my community,” Wolfel said. “This is my response to my neighbors’ concerns.”
Wolfel and city officials led several dozen people carrying posters on a march on May 14 from Fire Station No. 2, at the corner where Cloyne Street meets Pleasant Valley Road, down Cypress to Garden City Acres Park.
At the park, marchers and other residents were greeted by guest speakers as well as representatives of First United Pentecostal Church, Glenwood Care Center, gang intervention nonprofit Battleground Inc. and several Oxnard city departments.
Speakers included District 5 Supervisor John Zaragosa, Police Chief Jeri Williams, City Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez and Laura Quintanilla, the consul de protection at Oxnard’s Mexican Consulate.
“You are showing strength. You are showing support for your community,” said Williams, who participated in a similar march in Oxnard’s Colonia neighborhood last year. “It’s not about staying in your home. It’s about going out and being brave.”
Zaragosa encouraged residents to support the Cypress neighborhood by following common sense safety rules such as letting neighbors know when they were away, as well as reporting any suspicious activity to police.
“Make sure you have the police department’s number in your cell phone. Call them even if it’s for a barking dog,” said Zaragosa.
Mindful that many Cypress residents are immigrants who may be distrustful of police officers, Quintanilla took a different approach when speaking to the crowd in Spanish.
“I told them that instead of being afraid of the police, they need to report any criminal act — that police go after criminals, not after good people,” said Quintanilla.
Activities for the neighborhood’s children included a jump house, water balloons, the Oxnard City Corps Train and a DJ. Pizzas and bottled water were donated by sponsors Pizzaman Dan’s, American Pizza and Little Caesar’s.