Monrovia seeking to restrict gangs

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Monrovia seeking to restrict gangs

Post  TumbleWeed on Thu Sep 04, 2008 12:26 pm

Monrovia seeking to restrict gangs
Officials hope to have injunction OK'd in September
By Nathan McIntire, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/22/2008 11:18:05 PM PDT

MONROVIA - City and police officials are pursuing yet another avenue to prevent gang activity - an injunction to restrict the activities of gang members.

Since early May, police, sheriff's deputies and the District Attorney's Office have been collaborating on the effort. They hope to have the paperwork ready for a judge to approve by September, said Monrovia City Attorney Craig Steele.

Gang injunctions make it illegal for gang members to carry out certain activities within designated "safe zones." The zones typically are places where gang members are known to congregate, such as parks or street corners.

Associating with other gang members, drinking in public, flashing gang signs - all of these activities and others can be outlawed under a gang injunction, officials said.

"What injunctions are designed to do is to give people breathing room to get their communities back; they're designed to prevent harassment of people on the street," said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The months-long filing process, however, requires officials to provide extensive documentation on each individual gang member's criminal history and ties to organized crime.

"You're not going after the gang as an organization like a corporation or something," said Steele. "The courts require an extraordinary level of detail to establish that each individual is clearly identified as a member of a particular gang."

When the evidence is amassed, it will be sent to a Superior Court judge, who will then decide whether to grant the injunction.

"Once this thing gets filed, you take a pickup truck to the courthouse with all the documentation," said Steele.

Since the process is ongoing, Steele declined to say which Monrovia-area gangs the injunction will target.

He said safe zones within the city would be several city blocks in size and that zones in the unincorporated areas outside the city would likely be "spread over a larger area."

The judge will ultimately determine the scope of the injunction, including the boundaries of the safe zones, the range of punishable activities and the penalties for each offense.

Gibbons said gang injunctions have proved to be a valuable deterrent to gang activity when used in other cities in Los Angeles County.

"Usually they stand up pretty well in court and we've found that they work," she said. "They've been successful in reducing community-area crime."

In some areas, however, gang-related crime has persisted despite gang injunctions.

An investigation by the Long Beach Press-Telegram in 2003 found that nearly 80 percent of the gang members named in two Long Beach injunctions were convicted of crimes after injunctions were imposed.

Gary Hearnsberger, head deputy of the District Attorney's Hardcore Gang Division, said injunctions are effective in disrupting the day-to-day functioning of gangs even if they don't prevent crime directly.

"If they want to get into warfare, get their guns and shoot each other, a piece of paper doesn't prevent that," said Hearnsberger.

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