Judge grants an injunction against L.A. street gang

The Highland Park crew, which allegedly sells meth, is the 50th organization in the city to come under permanent restrictions.

By Patrick McGreevy
Times Staff Writer

February 28, 2007

Reaching a grim milestone, city prosecutors announced Tuesday that they have obtained a permanent court injunction against their 50th Los Angeles street gang, this time the 300-member Highland Park gang, which allegedly uses violence to protect a major drug sales operation specializing in methamphetamine.

By converting the injunction from what had been a preliminary order, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge gave the city attorney long-term authority to put members of the gang in jail if they are found to be congregating, loitering, trespassing, intimidating residents, possessing weapons or possessing tools for graffiti.

The injunction also establishes a 10 p.m. curfew for gang members and prohibits them from entering school safety zones, extending 1,000 feet in all directions from campuses in portions of Highland Park and Eagle Rock.

“Highland Park is considered one of the most organized, most profitable and most dangerous gangs in Los Angeles,” said Bruce Riordan, who heads the gang prosecution program for the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.

City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said the injunction, in addition to court orders won in the last two months against the Dogtown, Clover, Eastlake and Lincoln Heights gangs, are part of a larger campaign to clamp down on gang violence and activity in a section of northeast Los Angeles where Delgadillo happens to have grown up.

Delgadillo said he plans additional injunctions in the coming months as part of a crackdown to address the 14% increase in gang violence last year in L.A.

The three injunctions secured since December cover about 1,000 gang members. In all, the city has 33 court injunctions against 50 gangs with about 11,000 members in an area of more than 61 square miles of claimed gang territory.

No other city in the country has used injunctions as widely against gangs, cementing L.A.’s reputation as the gang capital of the United States, said T. Rodgers, head of Sidewalk University, an L.A.-based gang intervention program.

The use of injunctions to limit the activity of named gang members is controversial. Groups including Rodgers’ and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California argue that such court restrictions can be overly broad and violate the freedom of association rights of people who have not been convicted of crimes.

“It’s strange that they are celebrating this landmark when there is so much we don’t know about the effectiveness of gang injunctions and so many problems that have to be addressed,” said Peter Bibring, an attorney for the ACLU.

He said problems include a lack of due process for individuals who wish to challenge their inclusion in an injunction.

The city attorney said injunctions have played a key role in the 33% decline in gang membership in the city in the last five years. Los Angeles Police Department officials estimate there are 39,000 gang members in about 720 gangs in the city.

“Gang injunctions are a highly effective tool when it comes to tamping down gang crime,” Delgadillo said. “But they’re no silver bullet.

“Suppression needs to be joined by prevention and eradication if we are to succeed in the battle against criminal street gangs.”

The Dogtown injunction, won in December, has already begun producing results, officials said.

“What LAPD tells us is the Dogtown gang used to reign over the William Mead housing project,” Delgadillo said. “Crime is down dramatically and the LAPD tells us Dogtown is no longer in the injunction area.”

At the same time, Delgadillo said Tuesday, six months after launching the city’s First Chance intervention program, which allows gang members named in injunctions to be excluded once they enter job training and education programs, 21 gang members have signed up.

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