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Lompoc police dealing with rise in violent crime as city sees second murder in 3 weeks

Posted at 8:09 PM, Mar 25, 2019

For the second time in three weeks, Lompoc police are investigating a homicide, this time on the south side of town.

A man in his 50s was stabbed late Sunday night at a home on the 400 Block of South J Street, according to police.

Emergency medical responders performed life-saving measures but the unidentified victim died from his injuries.

The man’s death comes just three weeks after a teenage girl was killed in a shooting in the 600 block of West Ocean.

“When we have these incidents, they cause a great deal of fear and consternation for people living in the city,” said Lompoc Police Chief Joseph Mariani.

“That’s disappointing because that’s not what Lompoc is about,” said Julie Clement, interim principal at La Purisima Catholic School.

The latest murder happened just a block away from La Purisima Catholic School.

No suspect had been arrested as of Monday afternoon, according to Mariani, but police were certain the murder was not gang-related.

Clement also lives near the latest murder scene.

“I’ve never felt unsafe here and I’m walking to school at night some times,” Clement said.

But crime, particularly violent crime, is on the rise, according to police data.

“We’ve had 21 aggravated assaults, eight involving firearms,” Mariani said. “So that’s a concern for me as a chief of police and the community as a whole.”

Mariani says the recent murder of a 17-year-old Lompoc girl, who was killed in crossfire March 4, serves as a painful reminder of why he took on this role leading the department earlier this month.

He says he wants to keep the community safe.

“Right now we’re trying to do the very best we can to be responsive to calls for service,” Mariani said.

With a squad of 44 officers serving more than 43,000 residents, Mariani says police need help from the public.

“Police work or community safety can’t be solely the responsibility of the police department,” Mariani said. “We need help from citizens to make the streets safer.”

Mariani says he would like to see his department gain six new officers, which would round the department out to 50 officers. Then the department could revive its once-utilized gang, drug and traffic task forces.

But until city leaders decide whether to increase funds for public safety, Mariani says he plans to utilize the manpower he has.

“They are overworked,” Mariani said.

Clement says she doesn’t think the city necessarily needs more policing but more resources to help people who fall into drug use, gang involvement and violent behaviors.

“It could happen anywhere,” Clement said.

A community vigil against violence will be held Sunday night outside City Hall.