Chew Park gets a makeover

June 5, 2009 9:12:23 PM PDT
A lot has changed in the Montrose neighborhood around Chew Park since a teenager was murdered there during a gang fight three years ago. You'll remember Gabriel Granillo,13, was killed in Chew Park on June 6, 2006. Another teenager pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in connection with his death.

Houston police said they haven't eradicated the gangs completely, but in the three years since the murder at Chew Park, what's likely most impressive is what you don't see.

"I think this neighborhood has probably changed a lot. It's entirely safe. We come out here all the time with our dog," said resident Suzanne Fong.

Where once a haven for gang activity, now it's a place Leila Wolf isn't afraid to take her newborn.

"I don't see any signs of that anywhere, any signs of those kind of people," said Wolf.

Upwards of 20 gang members were involved in the fight that lead up to the murder three years ago. The suspected killer, a 16-year-old girl allegedly had ties to a Houston street gang. Police said it was a big surprise for those near the park.

"That type of incident, whether it's Chew Park or any other park, it's a huge shock," said Victor Gonzalez of the Mayor's Anti-Gang Task Force.

Gonzalez said since the murder the city has spent millions trying to weed out the gangs out of Chew Park by using surveillance and police presence.

While those resources have helped, development has helped too. An upscale apartment complex sits on the very spot where suspected gang members once lived.

However, what may have been most important change is the residents themselves. Residents who wouldn't sit back and watch their neighborhood tumble.

"You're always going to need a lot more than what you have, but I think when everyone came together it made a huge difference. A huge dent, a huge impact," said Gonzalez.

The downside to the story is that police said the gangs have likely moved to other areas, but they are managing the problems in those other locations.

Ashley Benton, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in connection with Gabriel Granillo's death, did not serve a day behind bars. A little over a year and a half ago, she was sentenced to five years deferred adjudication.

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