There would seem to be little reason to hang out at the corner of Duane Street and Echo Park Avenue. The treeless sidewalk in front of the Echo Food Market bakes in the heat and glare and the store walls and dumpster are covered with multiple coats of gray paint to cover the multiple layers of tagging. But this barren spot is probably the last and most visible public hang out for some members and friends of the Echo Park gang, say police. LAPD has been paying additional attention to the corner and the stub of Duane Street that juts out east of Echo Park Avenue in light of some recent problems, including reports of gunshots and a rowdy party this weekend.
“Echo Park and Duane is a focal point of where they meet,” said LAPD Senior Lead Officer Bobby Hill of ExP members. “Several gang members live within a short distance of that location. It is the focus of my attention.”
Residents and police have noticed more tagging and gang activity near the corner since the violent shooting death of ExP leader Eric Zamarripa only two blocks away. Some residents view this as an effort by remaining ExP members and supporters to show the gang remains a force in the neighborhood. “This is going to be the figurative last stand as far as the neighborhood is concerned,” said Darren Williams, head of Select Patrol, a private security firm that works the Echo Park. “Unless they have another base to jump to, they maybe out of here. They are not going to start hanging out down at Chango”
Chango is a neighborhood coffee house that sits at the corner what used to be another popular spot for gang activity, the intersection of Echo Park Avenue and Delta Street. While it’s unlikely ExP members are going to find a base outside the neighborhood, it’s true that you are more likely to see gangs of hipsters instead of homeboys gathered outside the stores and street corners of Echo Park Avenue these days. Old time residents remember when a former grocery store called Cuca’s, located at the corner of Echo Park Avenue and Ewing Street, was a popular gang and tough-guy hangout in the 1960s. When Cuca’s closed, the guys shifted one block south to what is now the Echo Food Market at Echo Park Avenue and Duane Street.
But the gathering of ExP gang members, or who you think look like gang members, near Echo Park and Duane is neither a crime or a sign of trouble, said one long-time resident. Many of those guys are simply just talking over a beer on their way home from their jobs. “With most of the guys, it’s an after-work thing. It’s the marketplace. It’s the crossroads. Not to mention that’s where the beer is. Where else are they going to hang out?”