Police Crack Down on Gang-Ridden Park
By RICHARD FAUSSET, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Los Angeles Times October 25, 2000
Responding to two recent gang-related shooting incidents near Hubert H. Humphrey Memorial Park, Los Angeles city officials Tuesday said they will install a police drop-in center on park grounds.
Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks also indicated that the Police Department is seeking a gang injunction for the area, which is plagued by a number of active gangs, according to Councilman Alex Padilla, who represents the area.
A gang injunction prohibits certain activities police say are associated with gang crime, from carrying beepers to congregating in public.
In a letter Monday to Padilla–the lead proponent of a drop-in center and other programs for the park–the chief said the request for an injunction would be delivered to the city attorney’s office “in the immediate future.”
Police will also increase their presence in the area, Padilla said, with 20 special anti-gang officers from the Metro Division moving to Pacoima as early as today. The councilman said the extra officers will stay “as long as it takes to restore order” around Humphrey Park and nearby hot spots.
While Parks and others said the park has been relatively free of violence in recent years, two nearby shootings this month have set this racially mixed, working-class neighborhood on edge.
On Oct. 7, a 9-year-old girl was wounded by a stray bullet from a gang-related shooting while sitting in her living room.
Last Sunday afternoon, Andres Reyes, 15, was killed in another gang-related shooting near the park. Two other gun-related incidents were also reported in the area in recent weeks.
With its year-round pool, vibrant murals, modern playground and well-manicured athletic fields, Humphrey Park is in many ways the jewel of this rough-and-tumble neighborhood, whose slapdash ranch-style homes are often wanting for green space. But residents say it becomes a haven for gangbangers on nights and weekends.
“This is terrible, because it’s supposed to be a recreation area,” said Manuel Rodales, 33, a longtime resident of the neighborhood. ” But there’s just more locos here now–smoking marijuana and killing one another.”
Rodales wasn’t sure if an increased police presence alone would solve the problems, because he said neighbors have little faith in the LAPD. Non-police intermediaries, he said, might be a better idea.
It’s an idea that may come to pass: Padilla said that while officers will be assigned to the drop-in center, community volunteers will help staff it as well.
At a recent neighborhood meeting, Padilla said “We made it evidently clear that we were all aware of the LAPD’s resources, and we asked if the community was involved and ready to step up to the task. The answer was a resounding yes.”
Residents will hold a candlelight vigil beginning at 6 tonight calling for an end to the violence near the park. It will be preceded by the formal announcement, at 4:30 p.m., of the drop-in center, which will consist of a desk, chair and parking space for a Foothill Division officer, said David Gershwin, a spokesman for Padilla’s office.
The councilman said the center could be open by the end of the week.
A number of black and Latino gangs operate in the area, police say. Some community activists have speculated that the new troubles may be due to the fact that a 1993 gang peace treaty is a distant memory for a new generation of young people.
Crystal Hardy, 17, lives a few houses away from the park. She said her boyfriend has been harassed by gang members numerous times, and other friends won’t even drive to her house to visit for fear of being harassed.
The Hollywood High student, who said she’s hoping the new drop-in center will help, recently received an “A” for a prose poem on her feelings about her neighborhood.
“Did I forget to mention,” it reads in part, “that ain’t no mortal gon’ pump fear in my heart. Especially over a park.”