HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -

Hollywood city officials hope cleaning up an eastside neighborhood helps stop an increase in violent crimes.

"Crime is continuing to escalate," said City Commissioner Pete Hernandez.

Hernandez represents the district where much of the recent violence has happened, including the U.S. 1 corridor, a popular area for prostitutes, drug dealers, and gangbangers.

"You see a lot of nonsense out here in the alley," said Steve Wilcox, who lives nearby. "People smoking drugs. Somebody abandoned a couch over here and they were using the couch as whatever."

On Saturday, two men were found dead in the 1800 block of Taylor Street. People who live nearby viewed it as an uptick in violent crime in the eastside neighborhood.

"Some of them are arming themselves," said Hernandez. "I just talked to an elderly lady and she's in the process of purchasing a gun. It's scary."

"This area of Federal Highway is the nucleus of crime across the entire city of Hollywood," said Assistant City Manager Frank Fernandez.

Fernandez and a delegation of brass from city hall spearheaded a code enforcement clean-up of the area Monday, part of the approach to fixing the crime problem along U.S. 1.

"When you look at the conditions of some of these properties, they are what I would say crime attractors," said Fernandez. "It may not be the reason why this person was shot, but it certainly attracts crime to this neighborhood."

Fernandez said crews have cleaned up alleys along U.S. 1 for the last two months by clearing debris, painting over graffiti, and improving lighting. Police have also increased patrols.

Residents appreciated the effort to make their neighborhood look and feel safer.

"This U.S. 1 in Hollywood -- it's just the pits," said Debbie Chamberlain.

City officials acknowledged they cannot fix the problem immediately. Neighbors said they want to see more police officers.

The Hollywood Police Department, which has suffered a shortage of officers for several years, has 42 cadets in its academy, according to Fernandez.