Police in Los Angeles are finding that reams of paperwork can stop gang violence

Copyright 1997 Gannett Company, Inc.

November 12, 1997, Wednesday, FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 465 words

HEADLINE: Injunction quashes L.A. gang

BYLINE: Doug Levy


BODY: INDIANAPOLIS — Police in Los Angeles are finding that reams of
paperwork can stop gang violence.

In March, investigators concluded a year and a half of legwork
and got a court injunction against the 18th Street Gang, one of
the most violent gangs in the Los Angeles area, say researchers
who reported on the project at the American Public Health Association
meeting here.

After declaring the gang a “public nuisance,” the court issued
the injunction, which makes it illegal for the named gang members
to commit any of 60 specific offenses, including selling or using
drugs, drawing graffiti, playing loud music, harassing anyone
— or doing just about anything in public with two or more other
gang members.

“Since March 1997, (patrol) officers call the target area a ghost
town. There has been no gang clustering. Gang violence is down
50%. There have been no drug sales,” says Cliff Akiyama, a University
of Virginia graduate student who worked with the LAPD on the project.

Most police departments have focused anti-gang activity on major
crimes, such as drug trafficking and homicide. Akiyama says the
injunction route is part of a strategy that targets “quality-of-life”
crimes such as graffiti tagging and disturbing the peace. Akiyama
is encouraging others to consider injunctions, which can make
it quick and easy to make certain gang activities illegal, without
having to rely on a city council or other legislative body.

He cautions that injunctions can work only for specific territorial
gang groups, whose members won’t carry on their activities outside
their own neighborhoods out of fear of other gangs. And, he says,
injunctions are but one tool. “Curfews, tattoo removal, graffiti
wipeout and parental involvement are essential building blocks”
to reducing gang violence, he says.

But Elizabeth Toomer, who works with gang members in Detroit,
says injunctions are the wrong approach.

“These children need alternatives. A lot of them are victims
of lead poisoning and child abuse. Gangs are their only means
of developing a family system. We need to offer education and
after-school programs,” says Toomer, who works for Latin-Americans
for Social and Economic Development of Detroit.

Meanwhile, Linda Shapiro of Sinai Family Health Centers in Chicago
reported on a program that removes gang tattoos for $ 25 — far
less than the actual cost. Shapiro says 3,300 have sought tattoo
removal in the program. Clients are equally divided among whites,
blacks and Hispanics, and about one-third are women.

“Patients have crossed all kinds of invisible (gang) boundaries
to have access to these programs,” says Shapiro, adding that
the clinics also can help provide some primary health care to
gang members.

LOAD-DATE: November 12, 1997

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