Injunction would give police ability to limit gang activities
While it would be one of the largest gang injunction areas in the city, Los Angeles law enforcement officials on Thursday insisted the court order they are seeking against the San Fers is the only way to crack down on one of the oldest and biggest street gangs in the city.
At the same time, officials said they are trying to balance the terrorism of street crime with sensitivity to a community that has the highest homeownership level in the area and where 5,000 people turned out for the start of the Little League season.
The 9.5-square-mile gang-injunction area in the Northeast Valley - including the city of San Fernando, in a joint operation - is designed to break a gang that has been operating since the 1920s and that police believe has ties to the Mexican Mafia prison gang.
In a presentation Thursday to the council's Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence, LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore said officers believe the San Fers act as the enforcement arm and source of income for the prison gang.
Officials said the injunction area was designated based on crime statistics and where gang members have boasted of being in control. A court hearing is scheduled June 24 on whether to issue the injunction.
If the injunction is issued, Moore said officials will identify individual gang members and serve them with notice of the injunction, which would prohibit them from loitering in certain areas or being seen with one another.
Councilman Richard Alarcon, who represents most of the area affected by the injunction, said he is concerned with the language developed by the City Attorney's Office in drafting the injunction request.
"It doesn't take notice of all the good things that are going on in the community," said Alarcon, who hosted a briefing last week for residents at which some complained about the injunction's negative effects on the community.
"Quite frankly, you painted a picture that doesn't exist for most of the area. Most residents are more afraid of foreclosure than they are of gang members."
Deputy City Attorney Bruce Riordan said he appreciates the concerns of the community. But he said the order must detail the problems caused by San Fers in order to win court approval.
Moore said the injunction will give officers a tool to stop gang members for questioning and will help lead to the arrest of gang leaders.
"What we hope we do is interrupt their activities," Moore said.
Councilman Tony Cardenas, who chairs the committee, said he also wants to see the LAPD and City Attorney's Office provide more information to the community about what the injunction means.
"There could be a young person standing on the corner who is not involved with gangs, but he is talking to a couple of gangsters and all of a sudden a police officer sees him and he becomes an associate of the gang," Cardenas said.
"We need to have a way to differentiate so that we aren't wrongly putting someone in a gang."
Cardenas said he also wants information on an exit strategy from the injunction and 36 other areas in the city that currently are under injunctions.
The first gang injunction in the city was issued in 1993 for the Blythe Street Gang in Van Nuys.
"We still see signs of the gang there," Moore said. "We recognize that some of these gang members were 2 or 3 (years old) when the injunction was first put in place.
"But we still see significant gang activity or we wouldn't use this injunction."