Merced leaders working to improve neighborhood previously plagued by violent crime

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- City leaders in Merced are focusing on ways to improve a large neighborhood that was once plagued by violent crime.

The Loughborough area is home to about 3,000 people. In the past, it often made headlines for violent crimes, including murders.

But the crime rate has decreased dramatically over the past ten years, and now local leaders say it's time to focus on much-needed infrastructure upgrades as well.

One unit at the Merced Meadows Apartments is the new home of a community center for the Loughborough area, which is operated by LifeLine Community Development. It includes an after school program for local children and other resources.

Executive Director Monika Grasley says she opened the first center for the neighborhood nearly 10 years ago when the area was known for shootings and gang violence. But she says several groups have been working together to make the community safer, including police, apartment managers, and the residents themselves.

Statistics provided by the Merced Police department show the number of violent crimes was cut nearly in half over the past decade from 155 in 2009 to 78 in 2019.

"At one point, this was ground zero; this is where the crime happened. This is now a place where community members want to live," says Grasley.

Now city leaders are focusing on improving the neighborhood in different ways.

Mayor Pro Tem Matt Serratto says, "We did a town hall block party out there talked to a lot of residents. We're doing our best to engage residents over the last six months or so."

Mayor Pro Tem says many people expressed concerns about aging infrastructure in the neighborhood, which was built as military base housing in the 1970's. So the city is focusing on sidewalk repairs, storm drainage systems, and tree trimming.

He adds, "In addition to that, we're hopefully going to proceed over the next six months with a targeted neighborhood revitalization program. In April, we'll do a cleanup day. In May, there will be a public safety month. June and July will be youth services targeted. August is workforce development, and September is nonprofit and government services."

Supervisor Daron McDaniel has also been involved in outreach for the Loughborough neighborhood and wants to use the same model to improve the Beachwood Franklin area of Merced County.

McDaniel says, "We received a grant from the state will be moving forward with the community plan and just getting folks out and talking. It's the people within that community that we want to talk to."

Serratto was set to provide a progress report on the Loughborough Neighborhood Project during Tuesday's City Council meeting at 6 p.m. at the Civic Center.
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