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Gang Runs Into Tough Foe

October 16, 1994

A court injunction against violent gang members in a crime-saturated Norwalk neighborhood seems to be getting favorable results without running roughshod over constitutional guarantees. For now that means residents--who as recently as two months ago were terrorized by assaults, armed robberies and even firebombings--can walk down the street in peace.

According to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, the Norwalk sheriff's office used to receive as many as 15 calls a day from the 20-block area around Orange Street. Since the injunction was issued in August, authorities have logged about eight complaints a week there. None have been gang-related.

Officials attribute the success to the court action, which targets 22 members of a local street gang with 19 restrictions--among them curfews and prohibitions against carrying potential weapons such as baseball bats and crowbars. Violations bring swift justice including up to six months in jail and $1,000 fines.

Those kind of results may prompt some gang-weary local officials to try to slap an injunction on every suspected gang member they can find. But they should think carefully before rushing off to court in search of a cure-all.

Anything that restricts freedom of movement and association has the potential to be abused. That's why we believe such bans should be very limited in their scope. That means keeping the focus on small geographical areas, and targeting small groups of troublemakers or repeat offenders already well known to police and community residents.

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