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Battling gang influence
Injunction is aimed at criminal board of directors
By Tracy Manzer, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/08/2010 07:27:03 PM PST
Updated: 11/10/2010 01:42:16 PM PST
LONG BEACH - Murders, assaults, extortion and intimidation and illegal drug and firearm trafficking - they're crimes most picture being carried out by organized crime syndicates.
But in Greater Long Beach it isn't the Cosa Nostra that's to be feared. It's the Mexican Mafia and their southern arm of control, a prison-based crime syndicate called the Sureños, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell warned Monday.
"Neither (the Italian Mafia or Colombian Cartels) have had such a drastic effect on the citizens of Los Angeles County as the Sureños," the chief said.
That, however, is expected to change with the city's newest gang injunction targeting every gang that falls under Sureño control and that comes into North Long Beach, McDonnell vowed.
"We believe this is the first injunction of its kind in the country," the chief said.
The Sureños control a vast network of street gangs, many competitors and enemies of one another. They have thwarted law enforcement and dodge various legal roadblocks by uniting under the strictly organized hierarchy of the Sureos, McDonnell explained.
The chief likened the hierarchy of the Sureños to that of a board of directors over a large corporation, with the street gangs that work for the Sureños, such as the North Side Longos, as the board's employees.
The injunction names 107 gang members. Since its approval by the California Supreme Court
last September, 53 gang members have been served and another 54 are scheduled to be served with notice of the injunction, the chief said.
Among those scheduled for service are 19 already in state prisons, McDonnell noted.
Gang members already served include members of some of the state's most violent organizations, including 18th Street, White Fence and Compton Varrio Tortilla Flats, as well as the local Longo faction, he said.
A gang member who is served is barred from a number of activities, including crimes, such as drinking in public or possession of dangerous weapons and narcotics. The prohibition can also include loitering, showing gang signs or symbols or association with other gang members, said City Prosecutor Doug Haubert.
Violators face up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine per violation in addition to whatever penalty the person may face for criminal acts, Haubert said.
Work on the injunction began in 2008, when street gang crime in North Long Beach was on the rise and making life miserable for residents and businesses, McDonnell said.
In the past six weeks, Long Beach police arrested and city prosecutors tried and convicted several local gang members with violent criminal histories on injunction violations, McDonnell said.
Though the current injunction is confined to a section of North Long Beach, referred to by law enforcement as the Safety Zone, authorities are working on expanding the zone to include other parts of the city, Haubert said.
"The message is to the Sureños ... that we're going after them, not just the guys on the street," Haubert said after the conclusion of a media conference held to announce the injunction.
He and the police chief explained that in the past injunctions were limited to specific street gangs and the controlling arm of the Sureños knew this. They were able to skirt injunctions by ordering members of a myriad of local street gangs that answer to them to cooperate with another, either by sharing territory or moving shot callers and foot soldiers where they were needed and by working together to sell illegal firearms and narcotics.
While injunctions against specific street gangs slowed down that group's ranks, such injunctions had little to no impact on the larger and more powerful prison-based Sureños.
Injunction plugs holes
The new injunction is designed to target those weaknesses, Haubert said.
"This injunction ... is the fourth gang injunction in Long Beach and it is perhaps the most significant gang injunction in the city," Haubert said.
The city secured its first injunction against the East Side Longos in November of 2001, followed by injunctions against the West Side Longos in December 2004 and a third against the Insane Crip Gang in March of this year, Haubert said.
"Combined, these injunctions have resulted in over 100 gang arrests and convictions this year alone," he said.
The reason local law enforcement chose to target the Sureños was due largely to its strict organization and fluidity, he explained.
The new injunction works like the others in that it can be enforced only in the Safe Zone, bordered by Del Amo Boulevard to 72nd Street and the Long Beach (710) Freeway to Hayter and Downey Avenues, officials said.
However, it can be used as a lawful reason for officers to stop and question at any time someone they believe to be a gang member named in the injunction.
Those who have been served and who believe they were wrongly included can make an appointment with the City Prosecutor's office to discuss ways to be removed from the injunction, Haubert added.
Mayor Bob Foster, who was also at the press conference, thanked the chief and Haubert as well as their staffs for the countless hours of research, mapping and interviews that resulted in the ground-breaking injunction.
"We expect, and people deserve and demand, that we can walk around Long Beach, work and play and visit our parks ... without being victimized by one of the most violent and notorious criminal street gangs," Foster said. "We will not tolerate it."
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