SALINAS, Calif., -

The south Salinas community came together tonight to talk about making their neighborhood's safer at an end-of-summer barbecue.

This comes after a woman was robbed at gunpoint last month. Police officer Gabe Carvey shared some tips with residents on how they can protect themselves.

"This city has bad people in it-career criminals, people that will not hesitate to steal your purse, to point a gun at you,” Carvey said.

That was exactly what happened to Sandy Whittle in August when she was leaving work.

"It was between 9:30 and 10 at night, and these two thugs just came speeding into the parking lot. And I actually thought they were janitors," Whittle said. "Then he pulled a gun and said, ‘this isn't a joke. Give me your purse’."

Whittle posted her experience on community Facebook pages warning others, and it’s part of why the Los Olivos-Riker Neighborhood Association (LORNA) hosted this event to remind residents crimes can happen anywhere.

“It's encroaching into our area, too. We are getting robberies, we are getting some break-ins here," said former LORNA president Wayne Briggs.

But neighbors here say keeping their community safe isn't just a job for police.

"You are not helpless in it, you know. Part of it is learning what you can do to help protect yourself and your property," Briggs said.
Carvey tells the community that awareness is key.

"You gotta have a predator mentality. You gotta think about this stuff. You gotta have a plan,” Carvey said.

Mayor Joe Gunter also stopped by. He says support from the community is a huge help.

"We are starting to see citizens say enough is enough, and I think that's important, that they call, they report, they get involved," Gunter said.

While Whittle may never get her purse back, she hopes others learn from her and protect themselves.

“I’m really concerned about the older people. It's just amazing to me that they have a false sense of security,” Whittle said.