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Residents say neighborhood is safe despite rape

on October 28, 2009

A fence no taller than the young men who jumped over it was all that separated a brutal rape scene from a neighborhood of residents who say they live in a peaceful place.

Reflecting on Saturday’s two-hour rape of a 15-year-old student at Richmond High School, nearby neighbors said they were appalled.

cross street

This intersection is four houses away from the crime scene. Photo by Alexa Vaughn

“This is more than violence. They stepped over the line,” said Eraclio Lopez, 23, who lives one block from the crime scene near the intersection of Hayes Street and Emeric Avenue.

Lopez said he has lived in the house for nine years and never had any problems. He said he thinks the incident was the worst case of Richmond violence he has heard of.

Many residents said Saturday’s crime was not representative of the neighborhood’s usual activities.

“I think it’s an isolated incident,” said Debbie Wood, 58. “It’s more people coming from outside of the neighborhood that cause the problems.”

Wood, who has lived a block from the school for 27 years, said she thinks of her neighbors as hard workers that are being slandered by media after the assault.

“They’re showing a lot of Hispanics being involved in this incident, but that doesn’t represent the whole Hispanic population here at all,” Wood said.

Wood said she makes an effort every day to meet and watch over the students regularly walking by.

“I’m a nosy type of person,” she said. “I’ll come out on the porch when school gets out and say ‘Hi’ to the kids and try to report anything I can before it happens.”

Even after the incident, Wood said she has no worries about walking her dog around the block.

But some neighbors said the rape has changed how safe they feel where they live.

“I won’t go out at night,” said one 66-year-old woman, who did not want to be named. “I lock myself in.”

The grandmother of a Richmond High student has lived on Hayes Street for 25 years. She said the neighborhood has gotten worse over time, pointing out shoes hanging from power lines and gang-affiliated graffiti on the walls of Emeric Avenue.

a shoes

A pair of shoes hang from power lines above Hayes Street. Photo by Alexa Vaughn

She was home Saturday night but was not aware anything happened until the following morning. She learned from the news that at least a dozen onlookers laughed, took pictures and failed to report the crime.

“To stand there and make fun or laugh, they have to be sick,” she said. “I just hope they catch all of them.”

The crime caused one resident, who thought her neighborhood was safe, to think twice.

“I feel scared, very scared,” said Alejandra Gonzalez, 33.

But Gonzalez said that before Saturday, she had felt safe on her street.

“What happened last Saturday is bad, very bad. But this neighborhood is safe.”

Kristie Pelayo, 33, said she felt the same way.

“I feel safe in this neighborhood,” Pelayo said, who has lived in either Richmond or San Pablo her entire life. “I carry a knife, but I’m not scared to live in Richmond.”


  1. Regina on November 1, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I can understand that some people may feel safe in this neighborhood because most times people are just going about the business of living. Most people just want to live peacefully. But…I would beg to differ when anyone says ” Saturday’s crime was not representative of the neighborhood’s usual activities.” As a member of this community I can tell you first hand that 23rd street is a cest pool of prostitution I can hardly walk to the bart station without being propotitioned by a creepy “trick John”. I am concerned for my daughter and other young girls. It is terrible what has happened. I could not even bear to read the full story. This is a wake up call to whom ever is in charge downtown. So when you are turning a deaf eye to what goes on in your town dont act surprised when something like this happens and dont run and hide either thinking that no one will notice that you Fat Cats are not even trying to help Richmond and/or San Pablo. Why do we need you elected officials? We know you guys dont give a crap. Bet your lives are simply grand. How long will we have to put up with this?.We are already on our own. The police are good men and women who are probably overwhelmed. But someone can stop the abuse against women on these streets. That is someones daughter out there. In closing I would like contribrute to a bank fund for the young lady in this case. If any knows of one.

    • Alexa Vaughn on November 1, 2009 at 8:51 pm

      Anyone can donate money to the victim through Richmond High School. Checks should be made out to Richmond High Student Fund, and the memo line should read Sex Assault Victim.

    • Alexa Vaughn on November 1, 2009 at 9:03 pm

      Her church is also collecting funds:

      Donations and cards (no flowers at this time) be sent to Pastor Jim Wheeler, who is coordinating the funds on their behalf. Make checks out to:
      First Presbyterian Church of Richmond,
      3415 Barrett Ave., Richmond, CA 94805
      with “Victory Over Violence Fund” written in the memo line.
      For more information, call the church at 510-234-0954 or e-mail

  2. Residents say neighborhood safe despite rape « on November 18, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    […] here to see the rest of the […]

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