Neighbors in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood of Grand Rapids were not surprised when police said that the fatal shooting of a 17-year old on Friday evening was gang-related.
People who live along the Grandville Ave. corridor say the gang activity in the area has picked up in the last year.
“When I’m scared to go to the damn store, it’s a problem,” said one neighbor, a man who lives near Caulfield and Hall.
The Friday night shooting near Beacon St. and Grandville Ave. SW happened near a store that he shops at.
Police said the victim, 17-year old Miguel Lopez, had gang ties. His mother, Blanca Velasquez, said he was trying to get away from the gang lifestyle when members of the Latin Kings heard he was back in town.
Neighborhood organizers from Roosevelt Park have been trying to stay ahead of the graffiti by making sure neighbors have paint ready when the tagging pops up. They also want people to call police when they see shady behavior.
“Once you show that you’re not scared, the negative stuff is going to go away,” said Martinez.
Velasquez said Lopez got involved with gangs when they last lived in the area nearly four years ago, when he was 13. Velasquez said he was part of the Mexican MOB. She said they moved out west and she placed Lopez in a state-run youth home in Arizona for two years to keep him out of further trouble.
“I always told my son, I’d rather see you locked up than shot,” said Velasquez.
Police have made no arrests in the case. Monday, a GRPD Lieutenant characterized gang activity in the city as, ”groups of kids” that were “not tight knit.” He said they lack the organizational structure of gangs in places like Los Angles or Chicago.