The Elysian Valley Riverside Neighborhood Council decided to wait a month before taking a stance on a proposed gang injunction, which would also include Echo Park and sections of Silver Lake, because several members of the board said they hadn’t researched the effectiveness of the legal measure in enough detail.
Steve Appleton, board president of the Elysian Valley Riverside Neighborhood Council, said at Thursday night’s meeting that he planned on implementing time restrictions for the next session to prevent a repeat of the chaotic ending of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council’s debate on the injunction. The Silver Lake council had been asked to vote on a measure to deny support for the injunction, language similar to a position adopted by the Echo Park neighborhood council. But the Silver Lake vote ended in a tie, which sent the measure to defeat.
While opponents and supporters of the Echo Park area injunction have debated the issue at neighborhood councils as they try to sway public opinion, the councils have no authority over the injunction, which has been proposed by the City Attorney. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge last month allowed the process of implementing the Echo Park gang injunction to go forward but the measure will return to court for another hearing on Oct. 30.
Appleton expressed concern about the Echo Park area gang injunction’s impediments to freedom of association – alleged gang members named in the injunction are not allowed to meet in groups of two or more – even though court rulings have deemed the restrictions constitutional. Courts have overturned previous rulings or changed their minds in the past though, he said.
The council president said he felt more comfortable in the neighborhood because he knew local gang members but was concerned criminals continued to harass newer residents or visitors to Elysian Valley, which is wedged into a narrow strip of land between the Los Angeles River and the 5 Freeway. Appleton claimed an injunction in his former neighborhood, Highland Park, had crippled the operations of the Avenues gang, which had killed and harassed black residents who had moved into the area.
He and other council members said they felt that gang members in Elysian Valley were not an isolated part of the community, with some council members saying that some residents look to gang members as protectors. “They’re part of the social matrix of the community,” Appleton said.
Board member Isvinder Grewal described the main gangs in the area as tagging crews, more focused on spraying graffiti than violence and intimidation. But At-Large Representative Bob Berg countered that description. Berg, who described himself as a retired cop, pointed to graffiti rivalries on Riverside Drive, evidenced by rival gangs spraying over or obscuring opponents’ graffiti—an act called a “cross-out”— as well as break-ins and thefts as signs of brewing tensions between local gangs.
“I personally think there is a need,” he said. “This is a tool to make this the safe community we all want.”
The low crime numbers, opposing board members countered, showed a lack of need for the extra punitive measures proposed by the city attorney.
Latino board member Jesus Garcia, sporting a close trimmed hair cut, said police had already racially-profiled him in the community because he wore white t-shirts, had short hair and brown skin. Like many opponents of the injunction, he was concerned the measure would entrench racial profiling.
But another Elysian Valley Latino, David De La Torre of the local neighborhood watch, said he felt that the injunction was an extra tool to help the police department, which he called understaffed, underbudgeted and overtaxed with work. De La Torre said he didn’t mind being pulled over because he was an upstanding citizen with good intentions.
“It takes two minutes of my time for someone to take me off their suspect’s list,” he said.