Judge Approves Injunction Against Harpys
Gang Members Barred From Meeting Publicly; Courts: Judge Approves Injunciton Against Harpys, Accused of Terrorizing Area Near USC. Youth Worker Calls Order A License For Police To Harass Young People.
HECTOR BECERRA, TIMES STAFF WRITER
August 5, 1998
A Superior Court judge Tuesday ordered 30 members of a street gang accused of terrorizing a neighborhood near USC to stop publicly associating with each other on their turf.
In approving the fifth injunction leveled against a Los Angeles gang by the city attorney’s office since 1997, Judge Reginald Dunn called the Harpys a “criminal street gang . . . that constitutes a public nuisance.”
In addition to the 30 members named in the injunction, authorities have targeted the entire gang for such activities as extortion, robbery, intimidation and murder, said Deputy City Atty. Jim McDougal.
The prosecutor said the injunction will have a significant chilling effect on the Harpys. Unlike other gangs, this one is locked into a single neighborhood and unable to expand geographically because of adjacent rival turf, authorities say.
Past injunctions against sets of the 18th Street and Mara Salvatrucha gangs have banned members’ use of beepers, cellular phones and other devices sometimes employed in selling drugs.
McDougal said this is the first time a Los Angeles gang has been targeted for behavior that does not primarily involve street-level drug sales.
Instead, the members spread havoc, the prosecutor said, by acting as a unit of intimidation.
“For the Harpys, getting together is a precursor to crimes,” McDougal said.
The court order carved out certain times and places when and where the defendants can associate. They include the Youth Empowerment Project and facilities of other groups that help young people.
The project has emerged as a defender of some Harpys against the injunction. An umbrella group of the project helped secure legal aid for four of the named defendants.
Attorneys for the defendants could not be reached.
The youth project has expressed dismay at the court order, which could affect about 20 of its employees and others who use its services.
About 10 of the Harpys named in the suit are connected to the project and include two supervisors, said projects administrator Mark Wilson. He said Harpys who come into the organization’s center want to change their lives.
“I’m happy the judge included language which exempts YEP from the injunction,” Wilson said. “But I think the order gives police a license to harass young people in the community.”
Wilson said he also disputes law enforcement’s portrayal of the Harpys as agents of terror whom the community is clamoring to suppress.
Although the injunction names only 30 gang members, its wording includes “all Harpys members.” However, McDougal said most of the gang’s 450 active members have so far not engaged in the kind of “nuisance” activities that put the named defendants in the order.
“We’re going to proceed with this cautiously,” he said. “We probably won’t be arresting Harpys caught violating the injunction this first time around.”