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Injunction granted against 6 gangs in Echo Park

The injunction prohibits known members of the gangs in Echo Park from associating with each other in public, possessing firearms or narcotics, or possessing alcohol in public.

September 29, 2013|By Hailey Branson-Potts
  • Echo Park Lake is part of the area declared off-limits to several gangs.
Echo Park Lake is part of the area declared off-limits to several gangs. (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

A Los Angeles County court last week granted a permanent injunction against six gangs in Echo Park and its surrounding neighborhoods, according to the city attorney's office.

The injunction prohibits known members of the gangs from associating with each other in public, possessing firearms or narcotics, or possessing alcohol in public, officials said. It also prohibits gang members from possessing aerosol paint containers, felt-tip markers and other items that can be used to apply graffiti.

The gangs named in the injunction are the Big Top Locos, Crazys, Diamond Street Locos, Echo Park Locos, Frogtowns and Head Hunters.

"We've got to be tough on violent gang activity, and gang injunctions such as this one ... are an important step," Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement.

The city has 45 other active gang injunctions, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The city's lawyers filed the Echo Park injunction in June. It creates a 3.8-square-mile "safety zone" in Echo Park, Elysian Valley, Historic Filipinotown and portions of Silver Lake, court documents say.

The injunction — a civil suit that seeks a court ruling declaring a gang a public nuisance — also includes Echo Park Lake and Dodger Stadium.

Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan ruled that city attorneys presented "clear and convincing evidence" that the injunction was necessary.

City attorneys called each of the gangs a "violent, turf-based, predominantly Hispanic criminal street gang," according to court documents. The gangs, they said, have fought for years, leading to extensive graffiti vandalism, aggravated assaults, shootings, attempted murders and murders.

The gangs "demonstrate a blatant disregard for the lives and safety of innocent victims, including children and senior citizens who get caught in the crossfire," attorneys wrote in the request for the injunction. "Bullets, shell casings and loaded firearms have been found throughout the safety zone."

Attorneys also accused gang members of intimidating, "mad-dogging" and flashing gang signs at young men they assume are members of rival gangs.

The injunction can be enforced only against active gang members after they are personally served with the signed court order, according to the city attorney's office. Los Angeles police gang experts must submit proof to the city attorney's office that the person is an active gang member before penalizing the person under the injunction.

A listed gang member will be removed automatically from the injunction after five years if the person does not engage in criminal behavior, officials said.

"It is essential that we provide incentives for gang members to turn their lives around," Feuer said in a statement.

Police have served the complaint and summons to at least three members of each gang named, officials said.

Critics of the injunction said that it was coming at a time when crime rates were down and that it was too difficult for former gang members to be removed from an injunction list even if they stayed out of trouble.

During a crowded meeting last month, the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council voted to "not support" the injunction, said Ari Bessendorf, the council's president.

"There was concern that there could be potential violations of civil liberties and that the injunction was overly broad," Bessendorf said.

Mitch O'Farrell, the area's city councilman, said in a statement that the injunction will "give our police department an additional tool to help make our neighborhoods safer."

O'Farrell added that he believes the injunction will motivate gang members or those tempted to join gangs to "choose otherwise."

hailey.branson@latimes.com

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