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Belmont Residents Say Neighborhood Is Plagued By Gang Violence

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The stabbing death of a 15-year-old boy in the Bronx has sparked a citywide conversation about the threat of gang violence.

Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz once joined the NYPD Explorers program – early training for the police force – before he was allegedly murdered by gang members last week.

"He just always said that he wanted to change a lot about the neighborhood," friend Rafael Nitro said. "It's not only about Junior. But that just means that nobody's safe. And if nobody's safe and everybody's dying left and right, then what happens to us?"

Police said Guzman-Feliz was mistaken for a different teen, who the gang was trying to take revenge on.

More: 'He Wanted To Save People': Funeral Held For Teen Stabbed To Death In The Bronx

"For him to be 15 years old and not experience what it's like to be an adult, hurts my heart," Belmont resident Krystal Sicles told CBS2's John Dias.

"Enough is enough with all the gangs. We need to make more parents aware of what's going out here in the community," added another.

The suspects are believed to be part of a gang called the Trinitarios. Neighbors say all sort of gangs have taken over the Belmont section in recent years, marking the area with graffiti.

"It brings down the community and it allows gangs to say that 'we are in this turf, this turf is ours or this community belongs to us,'" said community activist Sydney Flores. "Enforce graffiti summonses to building owners, property owners."

More: 8 Men Arraigned On Murder, Other Charges In Deadly Stabbing Of Bronx Teen

Others say police should focus more on their street presence.

They could have more people be alert, you understand?" one woman said.

"I would say for the past two years, it's just gotten steadily worse, in terms of violence," a man added.

But Rev. Carlos Baez says he believes it's the southern part of the neighborhood that sees the most violence, right by where the boy was killed.

"I thought it subsided, but it came back," he said.

More: 'Credible Messengers' Connect With Young Gang Members To Turn Their Lives Around

The reverend is the clergy liaison to the 46th Precinct, which patrols all of Belmont. He says he thinks the northern section of the community, by Arthur Avenue and the Bronx Zoo, is safer.

"Every other community on the other side has police presence and everything else, but I think we need them here also," said Baez.

Fordham University is right by Arthur Avenue, but the campus has its own tight security.

"I don't see why it should be divided as a the community," Baez said. "The community has to be together."

On Wednesday night, the NYPD gang unit held a meeting for Bronx families.

"To educate the kids and the family members about how to stay away from the gang activities and gang life," said Capt. Igor Pinkhasov.

"It made me feel safer, because they're trying to help us not get involved in gangs," Carlos German said

Behind the scenes, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said monitoring gang activity is as crucial online as it is on the streets.

"There's still areas of the Bronx where people are subjected to this criminal activity that really no one should in this day and age," he said.

The Real Time Crime Center gives officers in the field information to help identify and prevent crime patterns.

"This is just a piece of what you see here continuously fed into the machine on how do we collect information, how do we use it, how do we fight crime smarter, how do we get better convictions? That's what we're looking for," said Shea.

He also said there are more boots on the ground in the neighborhood and "the world is going to get very small for the Trinitarios very soon."

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