Judge Puts More Heat on 18th Street Gang
Second Injuction Against Notorious Gang Granted
LOS ANGELES, Posted 3:15 p.m. August 29, 1997 — A second injunction has been granted against some members of the 18th Street gang.
A judge Friday barred 50 of the 18th Street gang members from simple and abhorrent activities against residents and businesses in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood.
Civil rights groups have decried the injunctions as unconstitutional, taking away fundamental freedoms including the right to peaceably assemble.
“Less freedom for who?” said Assistant City Attorney Marty Vranicar. “The issue we’re talking about is the civil rights of citizens subjected to gang violence and gang intimidation. When parents and children are unable to play in the parks, then I certainly question whose rights are being violated.”
About 15 of the 50 named gang members were in Superior Court Judge William Beverly’s courtroom when the preliminary injunction was ordered. It prohibits congregating, drug sales and other intimidating activity in a one-square-mile area of the Pico Union district just west of downtown.
After the hearing, some men flashed gang signs and remained defiant.
“That was unfair and everything,” a man identified only as Romey said. “They’re treating us like we’re not humans and stuff. But that’s all right. They can restrain us and get injunctions. But they can’t stop us. We’re still from 18th Street.”
The injunction was sought in a cooperative effort between the city and county as part of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Strategies Against Gang Environments program.
Although there are between 5,000 to 10,000 of the 18th Street gang members citywide, the 50 are members of a specific clique targeted for heinous activities, including murder, robbery and extortion.
The court order restricts activities including “acting as a lookout, whistling, yelling or otherwise signaling with a flashlight, walkie-talkie, or riding a bicycle … to warn another person of an approaching law officer.”
It prohibits the 50 gang members, with such monikers as Psycho, Killer, Lil Evil, Spy, Trouble, Sniper, and Commando, from fighting, defecating or urinating in public, littering, vandalism or playing loud music.
They can’t stand, sit, walk or appear in groups of two or more in the specified area.
A curfew for juvenile gang members was sent from 8 p.m. to sunrise and from 10 p.m. to sunrise for adults. If found in contempt of the order, penalties start with a five-day jail term.
Deputy District Attorney Mike Genelin, who heads the agency’s Hardcore Gang Unit, said the injunctions are part of a balancing process.
“If you let a gang member roam loose, he or she has caused irreparable injury to the community,” Genelin said. “We are saying to them, ‘You can’t do that anymore.’ Mom-and-pop businesses and neighborhood families will be protected. Gang members are not going to rule the neighborhood. Gang members will not intimidate them. Gang members will not extort money from them.
“We are telling them, ‘You’re not an occupying army.’ What we’re saying is that we are upholding the Constitution, we are guaranteeing citizens that they enjoy their liberty, free speech and the right to live free of fear.”
Last month, a judge approved a similar injunction curbing the activities of 18 alleged members of the 18th Street Gang in a 17-block area of Jefferson Park, a southwest Los Angeles neighborhood.
Since the first injunction was signed, police have reported a drastic reduction of gang members on the streets, even on Friday and Saturday nights when they usually congregate.
The Pico-Union neighborhood has nearly 28,000 residents, most Hispanic, and is one of the poorest and most crime-ridden in the nation, police said.
It’s not a coincidence, police say, that the area also is the birthplace of the 30-year-old 18th Street gang. But critics say prosecutors cannot trample on civil rights.
One such civil rights lawsuit has reached the state Supreme Court. The city of San Jose successfully argued that gang activity in the Rocksprings area was so menacing that police couldn’t fight crime with traditional policing. Defense lawyers have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Louinn Lota, Copyright 1997, The Associated Press/KCBS2