ESCONDIDO (KGTV): An apartment complex manager in Escondido is getting rewarded for his work to rid his neighborhood of crime and gangs.
Robert Barrientos has lived on Lansing Circle since 1995. But it wasn't until 2006 that he decided he'd had enough with how his community was being overrun.
"This place was full of gangs, drugs, public drunkenness," he says. "It was one of the top three worst areas in Escondido. We were a thorn in the side of the city."
Even local government officials knew how bad it had become.
City Councilman Ed Gallo remembers a ride along he took with a police officer through the area.
"He said we don’t send one unit here when we send something. We send two," says Gallo. "No cop would come here by himself."
Barrientos became the manager of several apartment buildings on the street in 2006. He began work to clean up the neighborhood immediately.
He started a Neighborhood Group to have meetings with tenants, renters, owners and managers. The owners of the buildings formed an HOA. And they all worked together to evict problem tenants. Barrientos says many of them were known gang members who didn't want to leave.
"We had to hire security guards to come at night," he says.
Within 2 years, Barrientos and the owners were able to get the gangs off their street. In the last 10 years they've worked to build the community from within.
"Now, this is a place where people want to live," says Ralph Ginese, one of the owners. "If I have a tenant move out, within 2 days the place is rented."
"Lansing Circle used to be a place where people would be afraid to walk around in the daytime," says Councilman Gallo. "Today it’s a place where kids run around at night."
The street now hosts a block party once a year. The city also planted a community garden along one of the alleys where neighbors can pick fresh vegetables.
For his work to lead the charge, Barrientos has been honored twice in the last month. The City Council declared June 23rd as Robert Barrientos Day throughout the city.
A few days after that, the Larry Himmel Foundation gave him their "Good Neighbor Award."
Barrientos says the honors are nice, but nothing compares to seeing hie neighborhood flourish.
"The only pats on the back I need is seeing groups of children playing, instead of running into gang members," he says.