L.A. implements gang injunctions
News Report, Selene Rivera,
Eastern Group Publications, Aug 23, 2005
Speaking from the hot zone area known as Ramona Gardens Housing Projects, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and representatives from law enforcement agencies and numerous other city departments, gathered Tuesday to announce the preliminary gang injunction that seeks to eradicate the gang’s criminal activities in the area.
“Big Hazard or Hazard Grande, which originated in the 1940′s, uses this housing project as a base of operations for an array of criminal activities. The gang has been tied to narcotic sales, murders, robberies as well as the violent intimidation of community residents,” said Delgadillo as some local residents who witnessed the press conference yelled their opposition to the injunction.
Despite figures showing there may be as many as one gang member for every 100 persons in the city, Ramona Gardens Housing Project resident Amalia Gutierrez argued that the “members of the police should be the ones watched by the law, since it’s some of the officers who abuse residents without a reason.”
The injunction establishes a “Safety Zone” in the area bounded by Cornwell, San Pablo, Marengo, North Indiana Streets and Valley Blvd. Gang members will be restricted from gathering along the streets to “prevent them from planning criminal activities” within the safety zone. The injunction also imposes a 10 p.m. to dawn curfew on gang members and prohibits the use or possession of drugs, weapons, graffiti making tools and the intimidation of residents.
But as elected officials announced the injunction order granted by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs, some residents openly questioned the effectiveness of this tactic. “Crime has decreased in other communities, but not here. With this type of restrictions in the area the police will only provoke fear among residents because they only apprehend the wrong people,” yelled a resident whose statement was quickly supported by neighbors standing close by.
But the local residents are not the only ones who disagree with the use of gang injunctions; members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have argued that these types of restrictions violate people’s civil rights. But the courts have routinely approved these procedures.
While overall crime in the city has declined in recent months, gang-related homicides increased between 31 and 57 percent between 1999 and 2004. Published reports, however, indicate that gang injunctions applied in certain zones of the city have reduced gang related crimes between 27 and 53 percent in those areas.
“Our streets rightfully belong to our school children and hard working families, not do those who want to rule by intimidation and fear,” added Villaraigosa.
Being the fourth preliminary restriction obtained by Delgadillo’s office since April, this injunction is specifically designed for members of Big Hazard.
Each injunction is designed to specifically target a particular gang, but generally the restrictions prohibit the gathering of gang members in public, traffic obstruction, gambling and other types of criminal conduct.
People who violate this order could face six months in jail, $1,000 fine and the penalties for other criminal activities committed. The names and faces of many of the area’s alleged gang members are known to police and are included in the official injunction.
Currently there are 26 gang injunctions in effect in Los Angeles, which is a total of 14,000 gang members under these restrictions (35 per cent of all gang members in the city). The injunctions are obtained through a civil suit filed in Superior Court against certain gangs by the office of the City Attorney.
The Eastside Wilmas, 18 Street Pico Union, Grape Street and Bounty Hunters gangs are some of the gangs currently under these injunctions.