Crime & Justice

In wake of Halloween hit and run, Santa Ana officials vow improvements to dangerous intersections

A picture of Andrea Gonzalez, one of three teens killed in a Halloween hit-and-run crash, is surrounded by candles at a roadside memorial in Santa Ana.
A picture of Andrea Gonzalez, one of three teens killed in a Halloween hit-and-run crash, is surrounded by candles at a roadside memorial in Santa Ana.
Josie Huang/KPCC

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Three days after three teenaged girls were killed by a hit-and-run driver while trick-or-treating, Santa Ana officials vowed to improve safety for pedestrians. 

"I think looking at this incident in particular brings home why we need to prioritize this as a goal for the council in the next year," City Councilman Vincent Sarmiento said at a press conference Monday.

California's Office of Traffic Safety ranks Santa Ana as the state’s most dangerous large city for kids on foot or bike, based on reported traffic injury and death statistics. Officials in Santa Ana said they need a comprehensive approach that includes enforcement, education and engineering.

Public Works Director Fred Mousavipour's staff has been working on a strategic plan to calm city traffic, which he said will make streets safer. Mousavipour said the team is weighing options to slow traffic around the most dangerous intersections in the city, including narrowing streets and improving visibility at dangerous crosswalks by adding streetlights, or blinking lights. The crosswalk where the teenagers were killed Friday did have a streetlight.

Mousavipour said the plan will be completed in the next four to five months. 

Sarmiento, the councilman, said the city has set aside funds to relieve street congestion, but needs to add to it. He said he's hoping for grants.

"A motor officer does provide great visibility and changes behavior – both of pedestrians and of drivers," Police Chief Carlos Rojas said. He said he needs more officers to keep pedestrians safe.

Mousavipour said the city's crowded streets pose challenges. Santa Ana is the fourth-densest city in the country, with 12,000 people per square mile, he said.

"You’ve got a combination of a lot of cars and a lot of pedestrians; that’s lethal," he said.

On Sunday, police arrested Jaquinn Ramone Bell on suspicion of running over twins Lexi and Lexandra Perez and their friend Andrea Gonzalez as they walked north in the crosswalk at Fairhaven and Grand Avenue Friday night, then fleeing the scene. The girls, all 13, were killed. They were trick or treating.