Court Bars Gang From Eastside Area

Court Bars Gang From Eastside Area
By Richard Fausset
Times Staff Writer

August 16, 2005

Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo has obtained a court injunction against a street gang accused of terrorizing an Eastside housing project for decades.

The preliminary injunction against the Big Hazard gang, also known as Hazard Grande, prohibits members from “driving, standing, sitting, walking, gathering or appearing” together in a roughly half-square-mile section of Boyle Heights, according to a statement Monday from the city attorney’s office.

Included in the area is Ramona Gardens, a public housing project that the gang allegedly has used as a “headquarters” for drug dealing, assaults, robberies and murder.

The area is roughly bounded by Cornwell and San Pablo streets to the west, North Indiana Street to the east, Valley Boulevard to the north and Marengo Street to the south.

The prohibitions on gathering in public are similar to those in 25 other injunctions that target gangs in the city. But it is the first during the tenure of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and it is significant to him personally and politically.

Villaraigosa, a former president of the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, once was a critic of such restrictions because he believed that innocent people could be “broad-brushed as gang members.”

Though he later changed his mind about the injunctions, his political opponent, then-Mayor James K. Hahn, repeatedly cited Villaraigosa’s original stance during last spring’s mayoral campaign in an effort to depict him as soft on crime.

The mayor also is familiar with Ramona Gardens. He grew up in nearby City Terrace, and later, as an Eastside councilman, he found the project to be one of the few uncomfortably dangerous areas in his district, spokesman Joe Ramallo said.

Ramallo said the injunction obtained by Delgadillo grew out of Villaraigosa’s efforts “to develop strategies to impact that area. One of those strategies … certainly was the gang injunction.”

Ramallo said Villaraigosa was expected to join Delgadillo in announcing the injunction today at a news conference in Ramona Gardens.

Delgadillo did not pioneer the gang injunction concept, but since taking office in June 2001, he has more than tripled the number in place in the city. He is touting that achievement in his race for state attorney general against Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.

The American Civil Liberties Union has long argued that gang injunctions can violate a person’s constitutional right of association. But the practice has been upheld by the California Supreme Court.

A case for the Big Hazard injunction was made in a court declaration filed in June by Los Angeles Police Det. Bill Eagleson, a gang expert. He alleged that Hazard gang members committed carjackings in the area, extorted goods from delivery truck drivers and sold drugs on a street known as “PCP alley.”

Crime in the area was underreported, he said, because suspects and victims feared retaliation.

Residents were often cowed into letting gang members use their homes to hide in during police chases, he said.

“If you live in Ramona Gardens and a gangster runs into your house and slams the door shut you don’t tell police,” he said. “You just shut up and let the gangster do what he wants.”

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