A spate of shootings in Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood this month has residents on edge and city officials scrambling to quell the violence before it gets further out of hand.
The latest round of gunshots on Saturday night killed 42-year-old Newark resident Carey Cudlip in front of his wife as they sat inside a parked vehicle on the 300 block of Ivy Drive.
The couple may have been robbery targets, according to Menlo Park police Cmdr. Dave Bertini. Police found Cudlip around 6:30 p.m. after responding to reports of gunfire. The woman was not injured but Cudlip was pronounced dead at the scene.
Two men in dark-hooded sweatshirts were spotted running from the area, according to police.
Menlo Park had four shooting incidents in 2011 and already has six this year, all on the city's east side and five of them in Belle Haven, including three this month. Saturday's shooting was the city's second homicide; there were also two in 2011.
Belle Haven resident Eva Cuffy said the shootings have left her rattled.
"I'm very concerned," Cuffy said Monday. "I've been here 28 years and I've never felt as unsafe as I feel now."
About 6,000 people live in Belle Haven, which is bordered by out-of-service railroad tracks that cut through the city's east side, Willow Road and Highway 101. Its residents are less affluent than the general Menlo Park community, according to city demographic information, but the neighborhood has been on the upswing and is expected to benefit from Facebook's move to the old Sun Microsystems campus off the Bayfront Expressway.
Although Menlo Park, including Belle Haven, has seen an overall decrease in major crimes this year, there's long been a problem with gangs, Bertini said. Two other shootings this month -- a drive-by that left four men wounded on Nov. 2 and gunfire that hit two houses on Nov. 12 -- were gang-related, he said.
"These are not random acts of violence," Bertini said. "We have an uptick in our police patrol and presence and we've got our gang task force out flooding the area. We're trying to put a lid on this."
In response to neighborhood concerns after the drive-by, the city organized a neighborhood meeting on Nov. 8 attended by more than 80 Belle Haven residents. Mayor Kirsten Keith and Police Chief Lee Violett spoke at the meeting.
Residents were told violence from two rival East Palo Alto gangs, "the Vill" and the "Taliban," has been spilling over to Belle Haven because it's considered gang territory.
A follow-up "Belle Haven gang awareness" workshop is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 18, city officials said Monday.
Whatever the cause of the crime and violence, it needs to be addressed, Keith said Monday.
"Whether or not it's gang-related, I wouldn't say it's irrelevant, but we need to make sure we don't have an increase in violence," Keith said. "When you have incidents that occur with guns that are close together in time, people are concerned."
Matt Henry, president of the Belle Haven Neighborhood Association, said he has suggested to city officials that surveillance cameras be installed at main intersections along Willow Road and Chilco Avenue to monitor vehicles coming and going into the area. He'd also like to see a long-promised police station built.
The neighborhood keeps improving, he said, and the city needs to support that momentum.
Keith said the city lost the funding for a new police substation on Willow when the state dissolved local redevelopment agencies last year, but the council is still looking for ways to finance the opening of a police facility.
The mayor said she's also open to exploring the camera idea if it's something residents strongly support.
Cuffy, who has her 11-year-old grandson coming home as soon as it gets dark these days, said she'd also like to see a neighborhood watch program as soon as possible.
"People are already dying," Cuffy said. "I'm an action person, I don't like meetings, I'd like to see some action."