Nice to see Pomona improving itself.
Pomonas Gang History
Murder rate Article
POMONA - The city that already has the most murders in the Inland Valley also holds another distinction: A bad record on solving homicides.
While Pomona has experienced far more killings during the past six years than other local cities of similar size - including Fontana, Ontario and Corona - the Pomona Police Department has closed only 44 percent of its murder cases.
The majority of the open homicide cases are considered gang-related, which are the hardest cases to solve because of the difficulty in locating cooperative witnesses, police said.
"We're talking about so many of the homicides being gang-related, and they're unsolved and gang-related, it's a direct correlation to the number of gangs in Pomona as opposed to in neighboring communities ... the history of our city with gangs goes way back," said Pomona police Sgt. Jeff Anderson, in reference to cities that don't have as many gangs as Pomona.
Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero said each police department has a different definition of what a solved case is. Pomona uses an arrest, he said.
"Some agencies may be able to identify a suspect and that counts as a case closure," Romero said. "Other agencies look at charges filed or arrests made for a case closure."
Within the gang culture, members believe revenge is a better method of responding to a death than helping police.
"They believe that they'll take care of it themselves, which simply perpetuates the cycle of violence," Romero said.
Usually, the police department is on one side, and gang members are on the other side, Romero said.
"When gang members become victims, it's difficult for gang members and their families to get on the other side of the fence. And so that's why police departments work with the district attorney's office to provide witness protection," Romero said.
The open gang-related cases are not considered connected, Anderson said.
"Frequently they are. When we arrest a suspect or suspects involved in one shooting, we end up identifying them in other shootings," he said.
The open homicides in Pomona are continuously being worked, Anderson said.
Officers are constantly trying to develop new leads, gather new information from the crime lab or share information when someone new is arrested, he said.
"It's as long as it takes. They'll pull ones that are 20 years old," he said.
The gang related cases include the Ethan Esparza killing. The boy was shot Nov. 19, one day before his fourth birthday.
A 16-year-old boy from El Monte, who was shot when Ethan was killed, is not believed to be a gang member, Pomona police Sgt. Jeff Anderson said.
Police are still searching for leads in the case.
"It would either be someone at that party that would have known the suspects, or somebody that knows the suspects or that was with them or that has heard about it third-hand since it happened," Anderson said Thursday.
Andersondid not know if any people who attended Ethan's birthday party were gang members.
Pomona police Detective Dan Kono said he had little new information on the Ethan case.
Ontario police Detective Dave McBride said there are techniques that weren't available 10 years ago that help identify suspects and solve murders.
"Especially with DNA used nowadays - it's just amazing. One of the `CSI'-type things ... that's huge for us."
Fontana police Sgt. Doug Wagner said witnesses are the biggest key to solving crimes.
"More depends on - instead of a time frame - having witnesses come forward and be witnesses," he said.
McBride said that when Ontario has had witnesses willing to testify in gang or homicide cases, they have victim-witness advocates help them out.
"We have several assigned to our office. They work hand and hand with us."
McBride said advocates help with witness relocation or transportation to court. Pomona police also work with witness-advocates, Kono said.
Romero added that fear for their safety and being ostracized are two big reasons for people not testifying.
"But one simple fact is that if a person calls WeTip, the 1-800-78-CRIME, it's totally anonymous," Romero said. "How can you live with yourself by not simply picking up and giving an anonymous call and possibly stopping the next little boy from getting shot?"
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