Injunction confronts Riverside gang violence

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Injunction confronts Riverside gang violence

Post  P_LOKO on Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:04 am

By JOHN ASBURY and DAVID RACLIN
The Press-Enterprise

The Riverside County district attorney and Riverside police chief stood in the heart of East Side Riva territory Friday and laid out a new legal strategy to cripple the county's largest and most violent street gang.

More than 100 members of the gang will no longer be free to congregate on street corners, wear gang colors or carry weapons in a zone on the city's east side under a court order filed Wednesday by Riverside County prosecutors and the Riverside Police Department.

The civil injunction against East Side Riva is a tactic borrowed from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

The district attorney's office is going after 114 specific members of the gang and any additional members as a "public nuisance," according to the injunction.

The aim of the injunction is to put the gang out of business, Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said Friday afternoon at a news conference in Riverside's Patterson Park. The park was chosen because it is the center of East Side Riva territory, Pacheco said.

The 114 named in the suit have 333 misdemeanor and felony convictions among them and 46 outstanding cases, Pacheco said the news conference. Of those 46, seven are for murder and eight are for attempted murder.

"We tend to be reactive," Pacheco said about the criminal justice system. The gang commits crime and the police respond, he said. "Injunctions are proactive."

Pacheco said injunctions have reduced crime in areas of Los Angeles, Oxnard and San Bernardino. Another benefit of the injunction is that it "will literally last forever," he added.

"When you're dealing with people of this mindset, they become more brazen and dangerous," said Deputy District Attorney Jack Lucky, who drafted the suit. "Just like any court order, once someone violates it, you can charge them with a crime."

Violations can lead to fines or six-month jail terms. Violations made to benefit a street gang or repeat offenders could in some circumstances lead to felony charges.

Pacheco, accompanied by Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach at Friday's news conference, spoke in front of a display with pictures of the East Side Riva's victims, members and guns and ammunition confiscated from the gang. The district attorney's office plans on expanding the injunction process in the desert and the eastern end of the county, Pacheco said.

The district attorney's office purchased a full-page advertisement in The Press-Enterprise and La Prensa, the Spanish language newspaper published by the Press-Enterprise Co., to announce the court action to gang members, ordering them to file a written response to argue their inclusion in the injunction before it is revisited in 30 days by a Riverside County judge.

The Press-Enterprise advertisement was in color and normally costs about $8,000. The La Prensa advertisement was in black and white and normally costs about $1,800, according to Press-Enterprise advertising department personnel. Exact prices of the ads were unavailable.

San Bernardino police filed the city's first gang injunction in 1995 against 67 members of the Seventh Street gang after a series of increased patrols failed to curb violence, said San Bernardino police Lt. R.C. Garcia. The city has since seen a 95 percent decrease in the targeted area, Garcia said.

"Nothing else has worked long-term," Garcia said.

We've seen lots of short-term solutions work temporarily, but it seems they were always waiting in the wings to take over."

San Bernardino has filed seven injunctions against different gangs in other parts of the city and has reduced crime in selected neighborhoods, San Bernardino Deputy City Attorney Jolena Grider said.

She added that 90 percent of the targeted suspects usually abide by the injunction.

San Bernardino is now struggling with some gangs that migrate to different parts of the city, outside the injunction area, Grider said. The city can counter by filing multiple injunctions against the same gang as they migrate.

"In another way, we can follow them and let them know, 'We're watching you,' " Grider said. "In some neighborhoods, children couldn't play outside and this stopped gang members from taking over."

Gang injunctions can be effective by creating a chilling effect on gang members facing possible parole or probation violations, said San Bernardino Deputy District Attorney Mark Vos. He added that they only work in situations in which a gang is loyal to its own turf in the problem areas.

"There are added benefits of a court ordering gangsters not to congregate," Vos said.

"For most gang injunction programs in Southern California, the places find a benefit and decline of crime to make it worthwhile."


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What 2008 may hold for East Side Riva gang injunction

Post  P_LOKO on Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:06 am

By SONJA BJELLAND
The Press-Enterprise

An effort to crack down on a local gang rocked Riverside's Eastside neighborhood this year.

The district attorney's office had more than 100 East Side Riva members declared a public nuisance through a court injunction. Those individuals are now subject to restrictions including their clothing, curfew and assembly.

In the coming year, more will be revealed about how police will enforce the injunction and its effect on the community. Police will continue to attend training, a judge will decide whether to impose a permanent injunction, and community leaders hold hope the district attorney's office will answer their questions.

Enforcement

In 2000, Riverside police started looking at options to quell violence in the Eastside neighborhood, said Alex Tortes, who was the that region's area commander at the time.

"I was trying to find every tool I could to stop kids from being shot in the wrong area at the wrong time," Tortes told a group of residents at a recent Eastside Think Tank meeting. "This didn't just happen overnight."

After Tortes retired, Lt. Larry Gonzalez took over as commander for the area. He speaks to groups, attempting to answer questions about how officers will enforce the injunction. Police have not yet arrested anyone on suspicion of an injunction violation. Gang members found in violation could be charged with misdemeanor violation of a court order.

"This is a small tool for us in a very large toolbox we have," Gonzalez said.

Department spokesman Steven Frasher said the injunction can be used when it needs to be, but so far police have not seen any trouble.

"If people are behaving themselves we have no reason to bother them with this at all," Frasher said.

Officers have already been trained on what the law says and when it's appropriate to apply it. Some residents have posed concerns about officers harassing young men suspected of being gang members who are not. Gonzalez told residents at the think tank meeting that he needs to be told if that happens.

Injunction have become a popular tool for authorities to combat street gangs, particularly in Southern California, where prosecutors have sought them in almost all surrounding counties. Los Angeles County has more than 20 injunctions in place and San Bernardino city has used the civil procedure since the 1990s.

At least one study shows an injunction has had a positive effect in a San Bernardino neighborhood. The crime rate has declined while the perception of those living in the area is more positive.

"People feel safer," said Jolena Grider, deputy city attorney in San Bernardino. "That is the biggest measuring stick. It is a matter of taking the neighborhood back and giving it to the residents who live there lawfully."

What's Next

Several legal processes still have to be resolved in the East Side Riva case.

A trial date to consider a permanent injunction was scheduled for Jan. 24, but it is up to the judge if it goes that far, said Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Jack Lucky. Because no one filed paperwork to fight it, Lucky has filed documents asking the judge to declare the injunction permanent without a trial.

In October, Judge Edward Webster granted the preliminary injunction against everyone except Gabriel Tovar, who argued that he was no longer associated with the gang. But Tovar could still be subject to the permanent injunction, Lucky said.

Community Concerns

Leaders and long-time residents remain unclear on what effect the injunction will have.

Gloria Willis said she hopes the crackdown helps but acknowledges that parents have to teach children to not hate or retaliate.

She is sick of hearing about youths being beaten after being asked "Where are you from?" as they walk in the neighborhood. She said she is unpopular in the area because she supports the effort. The daughter of a woman murdered in Harlem, Willis has worked to bring peace and help youths.

"I feel we have to do something to stop the violence and how it affects so many generations," Willis said.

Many residents have voiced concerns about whether those listed in the injunction can go to community activities or if the members will ever be free of the restrictions.

Tortes, a member of Eastside Think Tank, said better communication could improve residents' perception of the injunction.

The district attorney's office has not yet met with residents despite requests from groups such as the think tank. Previously, the agency cited safety concerns for not meeting in the neighborhood after a man with ties to the gang threatened the district attorney.

The community is watching what happens to this gang, Tortes said, because it knows rival gangs could be next.

Waiting for answers has created solidarity in the community, he said.

"Are they going to respond or not?" Tortes asked.

Staff writer Jose Arballo Jr. contributed to this report.
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Gang history holds Riverside neighborhood hostage

Post  P_LOKO on Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:10 am

By JULIA GLICK and PHIL PITCHFORD
The Press-Enterprise

The story of one of Riverside County's oldest and most violent gangs, East Side Riva, is intertwined with that of the close, working-class Riverside neighborhood where the gang took root.

Gangsters ink the name of the Eastside neighborhood and its streets and parks into their flesh, on their clothes and, for younger members, onto their schoolbooks.

Gang members are the sons, daughters and relatives of some of the Eastside's oldest families. But their gang battles have claimed innocent victims, blown apart relations among black and Latino neighborhood residents and terrorized the community.

Hundreds march in Riverside's Eastside to protest violence in the neighborhood after the 2002 shooting of a 13-year-old. Longtime Eastside residents question the county district attorney's recent push to get an injunction against East Side Riva gang members.
Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco cites the Hispanic gang's violent history in support of an injunction, the first of several planned against gangs around the county. It would outlaw known East Side Riva members from many activities including congregating, wearing gang clothing and violating curfew in a specified zone of the neighborhood.

But residents say drugs, poverty and few opportunities for young people on the Eastside led to the gang's rise. Authorities should address those fundamental problems, they say.

Longtime community members remember the 1950s and 1960s, before guns, drugs and drive-bys, when gangs were fist-fighting kids who defended their turf. They say East Side Riva began that way, too, but was soon swept up in racism, revenge killings and organized crime.

Many Factors

While the gang, estimated by Pacheco at more than 500 members, has shaped the neighborhood's recent history, even people close to the group cannot pinpoint all the factors that gave rise to East Side Riva, said longtime resident and retired Riverside police Lt. Alex Tortes.

"A lot of kids that get initiated and get jumped in, they don't even know the history of why they do what they do," said Tortes, who now oversees city recreation programs in Eastside parks. "A lot of these kids don't know why they hate the rival gangs or the kids from another neighborhood."

Gabriel Tovar, 25, did not know how long the gang has been a presence in his neighborhood, but said his 85-year-old grandfather, who died recently, had the words "East Side Riva" tattooed along the curve of his thumb and index finger.

Tovar protested in court his inclusion on a list of 114 active gang members in the district attorney's proposed injunction. Authorities have labeled him incorrectly, he said, because he is related to several Riva members, has drug and weapons convictions and has "Riva" tattooed in flame letters on the back of his head and "Inland Empire" on his forearms.

"My uncles raised me. They were Eastside, and you wear what they wear," Tovar said. He added: "You are where you live."

Early Days

The old residential neighborhood east of Highway 91 and south of Highway 60 that nurtured baseball greats like Bobby Bonds and Dusty Baker always had its share of gangs, residents say.

Gangs once drank together, got rowdy and rumbled with rival gangs to defend their neighborhood and its reputation, said Dell Roberts, who moved to the Eastside as a child in 1945 and was a longtime security supervisor at Poly High School. But the gangs did not use guns and did not focus on race, he said.

Black gangs in white muscle shirts, suspenders and flashy shoes, Hispanic gangs in matching logo jackets and other groups were part of life on the Eastside, just like in working-class communities throughout the country, residents said.

The name "East Side Riva" may have emerged in those days as a geographic nickname for the neighborhood, but the gang by that name did not appear until much later, residents said.

Nellie Vazquez, 54, an Eastside native known as "Paloma," said that the Vietnam War and militant civil rights groups brought a climate of social unrest and simmering violence to the neighborhood, and, above all, more people started using drugs in the 1970s.

"You never heard about shootings, about gangs, until the drugs came," said Vazquez, whose old home on Kansas Avenue by the late 1980s became an informal refuge for abused and injured teenagers, many of them East Side Riva gang members and affiliates.

Vazquez is considered by some to be "OG" or old gangster but said she never saw herself as a gang member.

In a neighborhood where about one-third of the population lives below the national poverty line, gangs became criminal enterprises that seemed to promise riches and respect. Members became addicts, dealers and killers. Rivalries were not just about pride, but money.

It was in this environment in the late 1970s and early 1980s that today's Eastside gangs, both black and Latino, took shape.

The Tiny Dukes were the most prominent of the different cliques that emerged in the early 1980s and later came to be known under the umbrella name of East Side Riva, retired Riverside Detective Terry Redfearn wrote in a declaration included with the district attorney's injunction request.

These East Side Riva cliques, with names like Los Traviesos, Clique Los Primos and Los Deliquentes, fought against gangs in the Casa Blanca neighborhood, about five miles to the south. Hostilities also flared against Eastside black gangs, according to Redfearn.

Black gangs generally dealt crack and Hispanic gangs were known to peddle cocaine and heroin, Tortes said. Both groups of gangs sold marijuana and later methamphetamine, he said.

Race Wars

Woodie Rucker-Hughes learned to recognize gang graffiti, colors and other signs in her roughly 20 years as a teacher and administrator at North High School on the Eastside.

Rucker-Hughes taught for 10 years there in the 1970s. She left and returned to work at North in the early '90s to find the school beset by racial and gang tensions.

"You could see it in how kids were walking on campus, how they dressed. They were flashing signs, and there were fights in the hallways," she said. "You could feel it in the air."

A turning point came in 1991 with the murder of Ismael Carillo in Casa Blanca.

East Side Riva gang members, most from the Tiny Dukes, teamed up with their sometime rivals, the 1200 Blocc Crips, a black Eastside gang, to take on enemies in other neighborhoods.

On a spring night in 1991, members of both gangs piled into two stolen cars and drove off to shoot rival gang members. One carload shot and killed 15-year-old Carillo and another car shot at a man in Rubidoux on city's west side but missed, Redfearn's declaration says.

Redfearn said the drive-bys resulted in at least 32 prosecutions, 11 of them East Side Riva members. Many were sentenced to long stays in prison on murder and conspiracy convictions.

The fallout from the shooting exploded the alliance between the Tiny Dukes and the 1200 Blocc Crips.

In state prison, gang members encountered the prison-based Mexican Mafia, known as La Eme. Redfearn says the Mexican Mafia issued a "green light" on the Tiny Dukes, which encouraged other gangs to target them.

It was punishment for becoming allies with black gang members to attack Hispanics. La Eme offered one way out to the Tiny Dukes, to battle their former allies, Redfearn's declaration says.

By the end of 1993, the Tiny Dukes and 1200 Blocc Crips were gunning each other down, gang fights had erupted at North High and stray bullets had hit bystanders.

But the violence soon spread. Gangs, black and Latino, began injuring and killing passers-by solely because of the color of their skin.

"There were times when you would hear the word on the street was to get any black," said Rucker-Hughes, who is president of the local NAACP chapter.

"Mothers would have trepidations about letting their sons or daughters go to a party or go out. All of that was coming from the prisons, which always just blows my mind, how people who are locked up have so much control over what's going on in the streets and in the neighborhood."

Gangs killed more than a dozen people on the Eastside after 1991, including a 13-year-old honor student, a homeless man, a youth football coach and a boy sitting on his mother's porch. In the course of six months during the spring and summer of 2002, the neighborhood saw two gang-related murders and nine shootings, said Deputy District Attorney Jack Lucky.

It became a cycle of revenge violence, said Monica Barbarin, an Eastside native whose husband and brother were both labeled as gang members in the district attorney's injunction.

Another of her brothers, a 23-year-old father of two and a school custodian, woke up from a nap, went outside and was killed on the sidewalk in 2000. Gang members had shot her cousin dead a few months earlier.

Barbarin's grandmother called the family together and told them to let it be, she said.

"Do you know how hard it was for the men in our family not to retaliate," Barbarin said.

Quiet in the Storm

Barbarin is one of many Eastside residents who question the timing of the district attorney's proposed injunction. It comes during a lull in violence that some say could be the end of the storm but others say could be just a temporary break.

"These guys are bullet magnets," said Lucky, who wrote the injunction, of the East Side Riva gang. "They attract violence when they get together in groups in front of private homes."

But the last killing on the Eastside was in March 2006. Crime also has dropped about 11 percent over the first six months of this year compared with the same time last year, according to police statistics.

Some have worried the injunction could spark more violence. A classified ad that police believe to be a veiled death threat against Pacheco appeared in The Press-Enterprise last month. Chandler William Cardwell, a former newspaper employee whose brother-in-law was named as an East Side Riva member in the injunction, is accused of placing the ad.

Barbarin, Tortes and others say the neighborhood has learned in recent years to dispel dangerous rumors, put a lid on brewing violence and, in some cases, to appeal to gang members' loyalty to their communities and families.

Gangs were an ugly phase for some teenagers who have since left that lifestyle to work steady jobs and raise families, they say.

Many community members say the neighborhood needs more programs to rehabilitate gang members and to keep younger children and teenagers away from crime and drugs.

"People want to get rid of the gangs. They don't want to get rid of the kids that are in the gangs," Tortes said. "We don't want to stop these kids from associating and being proud of their neighborhood. We want to get rid of the criminal behavior."
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