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Gang Member Sentenced to Jail Under Trespass Law

Courts: Convictions of three men in two months is result of ruling banning visits to sites closed to the public.

February 25, 1998|CLAIRE VITUCCI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

NORTH HOLLYWOOD — A gang member has been sentenced to more than a year in jail and banned from associating with fellow gang members under a little known trespassing law.

Luis Vega, 19, is the third member of the same gang convicted under the law in two months, authorities said. Luis Salazar, 24, of North Hollywood, was sentenced last month to 405 days in jail and Victor Paz, 18, pleaded no contest Jan. 14 to trespassing. Paz was sentenced to serve 10 days on a graffiti cleanup crew.

Vega pleaded no contest Monday to one count of trespassing and admitted violating his probation conditions on three previous occasions, including two incidents of trespassing, said Deputy City Atty. Debra Siedorf.

Van Nuys Municipal Judge Michael Mink sentenced Vega to 390 days in jail and three years probation, forbidding him to associate with other members of his gang. He was also ordered to stay away from Tiara Street in North Hollywood between Lankershim Boulevard and Tujunga Avenue and prohibited from carrying a weapon.

Vega was arrested Dec. 20 by police who found him sleeping on the floor of a vacant apartment on Tiara Street. He had previously been convicted of violating the trespass law in June and July and of possessing a loaded gun in March.

"The [gang] problem was on Tiara Street between Tujunga and Lankershim," Siedorf said. "The majority of the people [in the gang] did not live on the street any longer, if they ever did," she said.

"They had no need to go back there; they were just hanging out, causing problems and scaring the tenants."

The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance in 1993 allowing apartment owners and managers to declare their properties closed to the public, thus authorizing police to arrest anyone found there who is not a guest and has no lawful business on the property, Siedorf said.

Before that, apartment owners and managers had to be on the premises and make a citizen's arrest.

Buildings have been declared closed to the public in other gang hot spots in the Valley, including Delano Street and Willis Avenue in Van Nuys.

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