Two separate incidents on the same Garland Street and separated by only months left five teenagers dead and a community stricken with grief. Now their families and police are seeking ways to keep young people safe, the Dallas Morning News reported.
On December 26, 2021, Xavier González, 14, Iván Noyola, 16, and Rafael García, 17, were shot to death at a gas station in the 700 block of West Walnut Street, The Dallas Express reported.
One of the victims, according to locals, lived on the 800 block of Magnolia Drive. The alleged shooter in this incident was 14-year-old Abel Acosta.
Then, on May 7, 2022, just before midnight, Jose Damian Garcia, 18, and Melvin Salas, 17, were shot and killed at a pool party in the 800 block of Magnolia Drive. Two others were also injured by the gunfire.
Two men — Jesus Saldana, 21, from Garland, and Christopher Torres, 22, from Arlington — were both arrested in connection with the shooting.
Garland police data obtained by DMN showed that juvenile crime victims have risen over the past three years.
In 2020, 162 minors between 10 and 16 were the victims of crime. In 2021, that same figure rose to 245. Year-to-date in 2022, that number is already up to 130, DMN reported.
The data further shows many alleged perpetrators are also minors.
In 2021, 210 minors under the age of 16 were either arrested or considered suspects by police for violent crimes. For 2022, that number sits at 130.
Still, Garland PD’s Officer Pedro Barineau said the trend of youth involvement in violence does not mean the problem is getting out of hand.
“We haven’t seen an increase in incidents involving youth,” Barineau said. “We also offer programs for young people, but the most important thing is to communicate with parents to highlight the importance of them talking with their children.”
Parents in Garland are also seeking collaboration with the police to bring down crime in the city.
“We want to meet with the officer assigned to our neighborhood to work with them, get to know them, and for other measures to be taken, like illuminating Woodland Park so young people can play there safely,” local citizen Koni Ramos-Kawi suggested.
Barineau says that local parents supporting their community goes beyond just talking to their own children.
“That’s why people have to be our eyes in the community and if they see something, say something,” he said. “Report, talk to children, let us know if there is anything suspicious.”
Garland PD has also deployed neighborhood police officers (NPOs) to help foster the relationship between the department and the community.
NPOs are special officers deployed to specific neighborhoods, so locals can get to know them more personally and build trust with them.
Only 16 NPOs currently serve Garland, despite the city having a population of more than 238,000, according to the report.
Another idea GPD has implemented to create a sense of community is the Garland Police Boxing Gym, founded and run by the police department since 1995.
Dave Swavey, a retired police lieutenant who once served in the Garland Police Gang Unit, runs the gym and says that dozens of young people regularly train there.
“We had a gang problem, and whenever we arrested youth, after 10 minutes of talking to them, they would start crying,” Swavey said. “We realized they just wanted to belong to something, and this was an alternative.”