Echo Park and Boyle Heights men in the spotlight over gang injunction lawsuit

Photo courtesy FBI

Photo courtesy FBI

Thousands of Los Angeles men — mainly black and Latino — have had their movements and associations restricted within so-called “safety zones” without a hearing because of gang injunctions, according to activists who have filed suit against the city. Some of them are even prohibited from wearing certain types of clothing. Two of the men, one who lives in Echo Park and another who used to live in Ramona Gardens in Boyle Heights, are among the plaintiffs in the American Civil Liberties lawsuit who describe the restrictions and frustrations they face because they are included in the injunction.

21-year-old Peter Arellano of Echo Park told KPCC that he has never been part of a gang. But he was added to a 2-year-old injunction last year against the Big Top Locos gang after being interviewed by police investigating a vandalism complaint. Says the lawsuit:

“He feels that is under house arrest. Arellano is afraid of going anywhere with his father or being seen in public with most of the people he is close to, even if they are engaging in routine day-to-day activities, for fear that they will be stopped, searched, and arrested for a violation of the injunction. This includes being in his own front yard or porch with his father, brother, uncle, cousin, or friends, because such space is within “public view” and associating there is therefore prohibited by the terms of the injunction. Mr. Arellano has skipped neighborhood gatherings, holiday parties, and other social activities out of fear of arrest.”

Another plaintiff in the lawsuit, Jose Reza, 39, who was born and raised in Ramona Gardens in Boyle Heights. He was made subject to an injunction against the Big Hazard gang in 2006. The lawsuit says:

“He is afraid to travel to or spend time in the neighborhood where he grew up … Mr. Reza has avoided driving into the ‘Safety Zone’ to pick up his son, who sometimes stays with family there, because he fears police harassment and arrest for a violation of the injunction …. Mr. Reza has skipped neighborhood gatherings and social events, and even feared arrest while attending a friend’s funeral.”

The city attorney’s office has not released a public response to the suit. According to KPCC, LAPD officials say injunctions help the fight against gang crime, giving officers a reason to stop gang members on the street.

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  1. Here’s an idea – maybe your family members shouldn’t be in a gang

  2. Mixed feeling about the gang injunctions – on the one hand, it has hindered their movements and actions resulting in who knows how many less gang killings and crimes; on the other, does it cast too broadly a net and sweep up those who are no longer affiliated or who may be associated (friends), but not necessarily active gangbangers. I am inclined to support the injunctions based on the fact that, for those of us who know what it was like before they started cracking down, gangs are a little more underground now. I do think that there should be a pathway to have more freedom for those who are simply related or otherwise friends with gang members but who don’t necessarily “bang”.

  3. Don’t believe these people. They finally woke up and realized they screwed up and are looking for ways to blame the law. Even if you’re not part of an official gang, but you know them, hang out with them, let them crash at your pad when their home is busy being raided… you’re pretty much one of them. Worst is it’s sad what the word “gangster” refers to now vs. the era of Al Capone or Mickey Cohen. A bunch of 18 year old morons walking around a neighborhood because they can’t even afford a car, or maybe they are just being cautious of what pollution does to the environment…

  4. I have mixed feelings about “gang injunction” zones – pros and cons have been debated to death. Personally, I think the community should simply vote if they support it or not. Obviously, some innocent people will get caught up in the enforcement, but perhaps some think it is a small price to pay for safer neighborhoods…or maybe they don’t? Either way, the community as a whole should decide whether these controversial tactics are used – problem solved.

    • Don’t you think that is a bit naive? I would think that the community would include the gang members, and that there might also be an intimidation factor.

      • MinFran,

        Perhaps (or yes), but I don’t see another way around the typical “racist” arguments – let a community of peers decide the fate of the community.

        Personally, I don’t understand why a young latino man would embrace fashion that could be associated with gangs if they were not in a gang and did not somehow want to be associated with gang culture, but apparently, there are a lot of completely innocent young latino men who have nothing to do with gangs, yet, dress like they are in a gang. As a “gringo” would I want to dress like a “skinhead” for the sake of fashion? For obvious reason, of course not, but not everyone shares the same pragmatic sensibility…

        • I believe that the way to “get around” the issue is basic: Enforce existing law. When politicians in high offices tell groups of people that it is okay to break certain laws, such as entering our country illegally, other groups feel they should also be so entitled. Jerry Brown is one of the worst examples of those who feel they can ignore U.S. Laws and make up their own.

          On August 25, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown said all Mexicans, including illegal immigrants, are welcome in California.

          According to the Los Angeles Times, while introducing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who said America is “the other Mexico,” Brown “spoke about the interwoven histories of Mexico and California.” He “nodded to the immigrants in the room, saying it didn’t matter if they had permission to be in the United States.”

          “ In fact, Brown said audience members, whether or not they were citizens, were “all welcome in California today.”

          Brown has made California a sanctuary state by signing the Trust Act and giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. He has also expanded financial aid to illegal immigrants by signing the California DREAM Act. Peña Nieto reportedly “thanked state officials for embracing foreigners, citing measures that extend state benefits to immigrants.”

          I am not a hater, but a law-abiding citizen native to Los Angeles.

  5. I went to a community forum where police explained how the injunction works. First, they have to be convicted of a gang related crime. That means there’s no innocent people caught up in this. Second, there’s a process to getting your name removed if you can prove that you’re no longer involved in gang life.They’ll even help in getting the gang tattoos removed.

  6. Funny how your not a gang member all of a sudden……..but shots came from your house back in April and I have a bullet hole in my car…………………………MR.LISTO….from Echo park gang. …..Peter Arellano…..lol

  7. isn’t the purpose of jails and other programs that the county has and offers to juvenile and adult criminals meant to rehabilitate. People can rehabilitate them selves. People change. If u do some research u will find LAPD has had a long record of wrong doing. I know u cannot throw all the basket for a few rotten apples, but same goes for people from our community. thanx to them two guys, a lot of us people who got served and started living like productive citizens, have action with this lawsuit.

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