LAPD slaps Pacoima gang with injunction
Saturday, October 6, 2001
LAPD slaps Pacoima gang with injunction
By Orith Goldberg
PACOIMA — Attempting to ensnare members of the most violent street gang in the Northeast Valley, a 38-member task force of police and city officials has started to serve gang injunction notices on members of the Pacoima Project Boys.
The injunction is the third in the Valley, but the first since February 2000. Police will continue to serve individual injunctions on hundreds of gang members as they come into contact with them over the next few weeks.
The injunction, first served on gang members Thursday night and Friday, forbids any of the estimated 300 gang members to associate in a zone bounded by Paxton Street on the north, Glenoaks Boulevard on the east, Pierce Street on the south and San Fernando Road on the west.
The boundaries of the targeted zone also include the San Fernando Housing project, which runs from Pierce Street to Van Nuys Boulevard, and David Gonzalez Park in Pacoima.
“They get their power from being out on the street in numbers and intimidating the community and … people stay behind barred doors,” said Jim McDougal, a deputy city attorney assigned to the gang unit.
The gang has engaged in numerous turf-based crimes, including homicides, attempted murders, narcotics sales and robberies, law enforcement officials said.
Last month, four of the gang members were involved in a drive-by shooting against members of another gang. On their way back, they were arrested, McDougal said.
Now, as a result of the injunction, if four of those gang members are seen in a car together, they can be stopped by police immediately, McDougal said.
This is the first gang injunction in the LAPD’s Foothill division. LAPD Foothill Division gang unit Detective Carlos Sanchez called the injunction the most effective tool against gang members.
McDougal said any one of the gang members caught ignoring the restraining order will be charged with violating a court order, a misdemeanor.
In addition to prohibiting gang members from congregating in public, the injunction outlaws the witnessing of any gang activity, the possession of guns, drugs or alcohol, and trespassing.
“The injunction goes and changes everyday life, graffiti, drinking in public and gangsters hanging out and intimidating everyone,” McDougal said.
Officials said two other injunctions in the Valley — one against the Blythe Street Gang and the other against the Langdon Street Gang — have helped police officers arrest gang members for numerous violations.
The Blythe Street injunction dates back to 1993; made permanent in February 2000, it encompasses portions of the Devonshire and Van Nuys police divisions. Since 1993, there have been about 40 arrests directly because of violations of the injunction and about 20 arrests made indirectly after officers who approached suspected gang members to enforce the injunction discovered another crime, said Marty Vranicar, supervising attorney for the city attorney’s gang unit.
“I definitely feel that gang injunctions have an impact on the way (gang members) conduct their day-to-day activities,” Vranicar said.
The Langdon injunction, which became permanent in February 2000, encompasses mostly the Devonshire Division and has resulted in about 10 arrests for direct violations of the injunction, Vranicar said. LAPD Devonshire Detective Robert Peloquin said he believes the gang injunctions in the valley have been “extremely effective.”
“(The injunctions) give officers the ability to recognize these members when (they are) violating these injunctions and enforce those sections and keep them from building their groups,” Peloquin said. “They allow us to keep (gang members) from becoming overly strong.”
Peloquin said the injunctions provide a lawful reason for officers to approach and detain suspected gang members, often leading to other arrests as a result.
Jeff Grogger, a professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, completed a study in July 2000 of 14 of about 20 injunctions in place countywide at the time. He determined that the injunctions appeared to reduce violent crimes — including murder, robbery, rape, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny and theft — 5 percent to 10 percent without measurable spillover effects as gangs fled to areas outside the injunction zones.
Grogger said that while the reduction appeared meaningful, he would like to know whether the crime reductions last and also wants to know the impact on the quality of life in those targeted areas.
Critics of the court actions say gang injunctions provide police with license to harass people not named in the injunction but who look similar to those named, Grogger said.
“All of these factors need to be weighed into whether they are successful,” he said.
Judges don’t hand out gang injunctions like Halloween candy. Getting a a permanent injunction is quite a feat.
Every year, the LAPD queries each of its bureaus to learn of any injunction requests. Those requests are forwarded to the department’s gang coordinator, and a comprehensive list is forwarded to the chief’s operations committee, which prioritizes the requests, Vranicar said.
In the case of the injunction against the Pacoima Project Boys, city attorney officials began gathering evidence in December 2000 and filed the case in March, city officials said.
The Pacoima gang was targeted because it causes more problems than any other gang in the area.
“They’ve been the most violent over the years,” Detective Sanchez said.
And by going after the Pacoima gang, other gangs in the area get the message that they could be next, McDougal said.
“If they were out there planting trees (instead) of pushing drugs, we’d be serving them with commendations instead of injunctions,” Peloquin said.