L.A. tries to hold back 18th Street Gang with tough measures

By JEAN-LOUP SENSE, Agence France-Presse
Copyright © 1997 Nando.net
Copyright © 1997 Agence France-Presse

LOS ANGELES (August 7, 1997 1:27 p.m. EDT) – City authorities trying to control the 18th Street Gang, one of Los Angeles’ most violent, have sparked a constitutional debate over its tough — some say draconian — measures.

City and county authorities are attempting to bar the gang’s estimated 50 active and 250 inactive members from congregating or even walking down the same street in groups larger than three.

“The injunction is a cooperative effort to end the 18th Street Gang’s reign of terror,” Los Angeles prosecutor Gil Garcetti said in a press conference on Monday.

“We will use every tool available to us to put an end to gang terror, whether it’s police power, legal know-how or anything else,” he said.

Garcetti wants the gang members to be barred from having a pager or cellular telephone in public or doing anything — even whistling — to warn other gang members that police are in sight.

If the courts agree to the measure, gang members under age 18 would also be subject to an 8 p.m. to dawn curfew, unless they are with a parent, legal guardian or on the street because of work or a public event.

Los Angeles’ controversial efforts are not been the first to try to restrain street gangs. The nation’s highest court, the Supreme Court, ruled recently that San Jose authorities could ban 38 young Hispanics from assembling on certain streets.

Amonth ago, a Los Angeles judge agreed to an injunction from the city authorities targetting 18 presumed members of the 18th Street gang but the area concerned was much smaller than that now being considered.

The Pico-Union neighborhood, the one that authorities are most concerned about, has about 28,000 residents, most whom are Hispanic.

Now the neighborhood’s 30-year-old 18th Street Gang is “probably the most violent Hispanic gang in the city (and has) literally taken over some parts of the city,” says police official John White.

It is believed to have up to 20,000 members in southern California and 2, 100 in Pico-Union allegedly involved in drug-trafficking, extortion and 154 murders between 1985 and 1995.

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