Summer Night Lights: Alternative to Trouble

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

When the temperature rises and school is out, young people in neighborhoods with few resources and activities to keep them busy are at a higher risk of getting into trouble, statistics show.

It’s a fact that city officials and law enforcement are well aware of, and the reason behind a program that keeps many city of Los Angeles parks and recreation centers open after dark during the summer.

Now in its eighth year, the Summer Night Lights (SNL) program offers free sports, art and crafts and other activities along with meals to youth and their families in many of the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods.

Highland Park resident Teresa Martinez has been taking her children to the Highland Park Recreation Center for the last two years for some summer fun.

“There are a lot of activities going on and the Summer Night Lights program is very popular in this area,” she told EGP Monday. “They offer free food, drinks, music, raffles, a lot of stuff,” she said.

This year, Martinez’s 10-year old daughter will play on a softball team while her 13-year old son hopes to join a basketball team.

When young people are busy doing things they enjoy, they are less likely to get into trouble or be recruited into gangs, according to then councilman, and now Mayor Eric Garcetti when he spearheaded the program eight years ago as a way to combat gang activity in Glassell Park and surrounding neighborhoods. In partnership with the Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) and the City of Los Angeles, the “park after dark” program has since expanded to 32 locations across the city.

LAPD officers play a game of tug-of-war with children during the Summer Night Lights program in Highland Park. (Courtesy of Highland Park Neighborhood Council)

LAPD officers play a game of tug-of-war with children during the Summer Night Lights program in Highland Park. (Courtesy of Highland Park Neighborhood Council)

SNL has proven to be a good tool for reducing violent crime while promoting peace, positive activities, and healthy outcomes for residents, according to the GRYD. Summer Night Lights focuses on areas most impacted by gang violence, unemployment, and with high concentrations of youth and young adults.

“This is a great opportunity to participate with the youth and create a positive point” of contact, LAPD Northeast Division Sgt. Christopher Gomez told EGP. He said his Special Problem Unit oversees the Glassell Park and Highland Park locations, helping families feel more comfortable about their young people taking part in night time activities.

Martinez said she was at first reluctant to take her children to the park where some sports programs can run until 11 p.m. Those fears have since been allayed: “There is always a lot of police activity and there’s a lot of parent involvement too,” she explained about why she’s now glad Summer Night Lights is offered in Highland Park.

According to GRYD, in 2014 over 900,000 visits were reported across all 32 Summer Night Lights sites. There was a 15.4% reduction in gang-related crime— Wednesdays through Saturday between June 25 and Aug. 9 — compared to the same period in 2013. Over half a million meals were served during the hours of the program.

According to officials, more than 10,000 youth have participated in soccer, basketball and baseball sports leagues and in sports clinics with the LA Kings, LA Galaxy, LA D-fenders, Play Rubgy USA, CHIVAS USA, and WNBA/Coca Cola.

The evening programs run from 7pm to 11pm, Wednesday to Saturday in selected parks and recreation centers. Some of the citywide activities offered this year include:

— Arts: nightly art workshops, culinary arts, silk-screening, mural painting, zumba, hip-hop dance and poetry.

— Sports leagues: basketball, softball and/or soccer leagues for all ages;

— Special events: music concerts, health/fitness, movie nights, science and literacy resources;

— Nightly healthy meals;

— Department of Public Health Resources.

The program will also hire some youth, ages 17-24, to work at site locations. In 2014, 1,068 local jobs were created and 325 at-risk youth were hired and provided on-going training.

Added this year is a pre-program assessment focused on identifying educational careers and goals for youth involved in the Summer Night Light program.

Local Summer Night Lights Locations:

– Glassell Park Recreation Center:
3707 Verdugo Rd. 90065

– Highland Park Recreation Center:
6150 Piedmont Ave. 90042

– Costello Recreation Center:
3141 E. Olympic Blvd. 90023

– El Sereno Recreation Center:
4721 Klamath St. 90032

– Montecito Heights Recreation Center:
4545 Homer St. 90031

– Ramon Garcia Recreation Center:
1016 Fresno St. 90023

– Ramona Gardens Recreation Center:
2830 Lancaster Ave. 90033

– Cypress Park Recreation Center:
2630 Pepper Ave. 90065

 

For more information, visit: http://grydfoundation.org/programs/summer-night-lights/

Man Charged in Highland Park Hit and Run

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A 21-year-old Los Angeles man was charged Tuesday with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and hit-and-run driving for a crash that killed a bicyclist who was in a marked crosswalk in Highland Park.

Alexis Virto pleaded not guilty in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom to one felony count each of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage causing injury, driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content causing injury and hit-and-run driving resulting in death or serious injury to another person.

Virto is charged in last Friday’s death of 33-year-old cyclist Jose Luna, who was struck about 3 a.m. in the 4000 block of North Figueroa Street.

Investigators believe that Virto was driving between 60 mph and 80 mph, and said the impact of the crash severed one of Luna’s legs. The defendant allegedly drove away with the victim on the vehicle’s hood for about 200 yards and later abandoned the car.

Police allege Virto was still intoxicated at the time of his arrest several hours later. He was found sleeping on a bed with his girlfriend at a home about six blocks from the crash scene, police said.

He had injuries consistent with the collision and windshield debris in his hair, said Detective John Menese of the LAPD’s Central Traffic Division.

Police tracked down Virto after receiving a report of an abandoned damaged vehicle, which matched the description of the one seen speeding from the crash scene and also had the victim’s biological matter on it, police said.

Virto has remained behind bars since he was taken into custody last Friday morning.

He is due back in court July 28, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.

If convicted as charged, he could face up to six years in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

UPDATE: Man Charged in Highland Park Hit and Run

June 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A 21-year-old Los Angeles man was charged Tuesday with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and hit-and-run driving for a crash that killed a bicyclist who was in a marked crosswalk last week in Highland Park.

Alexis Virto was scheduled to be arraigned today in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on one count each of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage causing injury, driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content causing injury and hit-and-run driving resulting in death or serious injury to another person.

Virto is accused in last Friday’s death of 33-year-old cyclist Jose Luna, who was struck about 3 a.m. in the 4000 block of North Figueroa Street.

Investigators believe that Virto was driving between 60 mph and 80 mph, and said the impact of the crash severed one of Luna’s legs. He allegedly drove away with the victim on the vehicle’s hood for about 200 yards and later abandoned the car.

Police allege Virto was still intoxicated at the time of his arrest several hours later. He was found sleeping on a bed with his girlfriend at a home about six blocks from the crash scene, police said.

He had injuries consistent with the collision and windshield debris in his hair, said Detective John Menese of the LAPD’s Central Traffic Division.

Police tracked down Virto after receiving a report of an abandoned damaged vehicle, which matched the description of the one seen speeding from the crash scene and also had the victim’s biological matter on it, police said.

Virto has remained behind bars since he was taken into custody last Friday morning.

If convicted as charged, he could face up to six years in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Podcaster Upset Over Obama Interview Aftermath

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

 A podcaster said Monday he’s “a little sad” that the media focused on President Barack Obama’s use of the “n” word during an interview done in the comedian’s Highland Park garage-recording studio.

During Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast – released Monday but recorded Friday when the president was in town for a series of fundraisers – Obama said the legacy of slavery “casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on.”

“We’re not cured of it,” Obama continued. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.”

The president’s comments came in the aftermath of the apparent racially motivated shooting deaths of nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Maron told ABC7 that he’s “a little sad that the media has just isolated the use of the n-word as the lead story and taken it out of context, which was really a powerful statement about the state of racism in our country. But that’s what you guys do, right?”

Maron told Vanity Fair that he got the interview, which lasted about an hour and was in the planning stages for months, because a member of Obama’s staff is a WTF fan.

‘Doggy Gym’ Coming to Northeast LA Park

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

They love their dogs in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Hermon.

The Hermon Dog Park — next to the Arroyo Seco Channel, along the 110 Pasadena Freeway — is a popular social gathering place, for people and dogs alike.

There’s even regular “Yappy Hours” and holiday fun like doggy Halloween parades and costume contests, and education sessions for dogs and dog owners, usually sponsored by the Friends of Hermon Dog Park.

Soon, there will even be a doggy gym of sorts at the park, where Northeast LA’s four-legged residents can get in shape.

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved the transfer of $10,000 from Councilman Jose Huizar’s discretionary funds to the city’s Recreation and Parks Department to help cover costs to build an agility course for dogs in the off-leash dog park area of Hermon Park, at 5566 Via Marisol.

The nonprofit, which also organizes pet adoptions and spaying and neutering events in the area, will work with city Recreation and Parks officials to install the course and two neighborhood councils to put up signs.

Huizar said he is a “huge supporter of providing more dog space.” The off-leash area at Hermon Park, surrounded by a “very strong and active dog community,” is one of the few dog parks in the Northeast Los Angeles area.

“We wanted to enhance it, support it and make it a lot more fun for our dogs,” Huizar told City News Service, noting that the Hermon Dog Park currently is “a lot of just vacant sand.

“It’s great that the dogs have a place to run around, but the agility course will provide additional exercise for the dogs, activities for the dogs,” he said. “It creates hoops and ramps and obstacles, and they are able to do more than just, ‘Hey you, a blank open space, go run around.’”

The money from Huizar’s office is being taken out of the Central Los Angeles Recycling and Transfer Station (CLARTS) Community Amenities Trust Fund, which receives a portion of the tipping fees from companies that use a nearby recycling center, and can be earmarked for projects benefiting the district’s residents, Huizar said.

Huizar acknowledged there has been “pushback” on such enhancements for dog parks from Recreation and Parks Department officials, who are concerned about funding the maintenance and operation of the dog-oriented amenities.

“Rec and Parks has mentioned that there are few funds to maintain the dog parks, and so therefore it’s hard for them to convert certain areas of parks into dog parks,” he said.

Huizar said he is working to identify other “funding streams that allow for a better use of park space,” adding that city officials are now reviewing how Quimby funds which are state money set aside especially for parks could be better used.

Information from City News Service used in this report.

 

Obama Concludes L.A. Visit with ‘Garage Interview’

June 19, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

To the relief of commuters across the Southland, President Barack Obama wrapped up a  21 1/2-hour visit to Los Angeles today with an interview conducted by comedian Marc Maron in the garage of his Highland Park home for his podcast “WTF with Marc Maron.”

The president’s trip to the neighborhood just blocks from Occidental College, where he studied as an undergraduate, caused street closures and traffic delays from the 134 Freeway off of Figueroa to Colorado and on York Boulevard from Figueroa to Avenue 51.

Commuters may not have been happy to be inconvenienced, but spectators of all ages excitedly lined the route hoping to catch a glimpse of the president and his motorcade.

The closures lasted about four hours, from 8 a.m. to a little after 12 noon.

The contents of Obama’s conversation with Maron will not be released until the podcast is uploaded and made available on Monday morning.

“I’m fairly certain this is the first time a president of the United States has been interviewed in a garage,” principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One en route from Los Angeles to San Francisco. “But we thought it was a very unique opportunity for the president to take some time, again, away from the sort of daily back-and-forth of what’s in the news on any particular day, but really offer listeners the opportunity to have more insight into how he makes decisions, what his day-to-day lifestyle is like, what he’s thinking about in terms of his family, his past, his futu— a lot of those sort of personal reflections.”

The conversation was the latest in a series of interviews Obama has granted to unconventional sources, following the online talk show “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis” and the YouTube personality GloZell.

Obama In Highland Park Today

June 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Comedian Marc Maron will interview President Barack Obama in the garage of his
Highland Park home for his podcast “WTF with Marc Maron.”

“We think this is an opportunity to have an extended candid conversation, not necessarily about news of the day items, but I think this is going to be much more about areas of the president’s life that don’t always get reported in the news,” principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told
reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Los Angeles.

The podcast is scheduled to be uploaded Monday.

Closures in the area will start around 8 a.m. at the 134 Freeway and Colorado Boulevard and continue until 12 noon. Street closures around Yoork Boulevard and North Avenue 51; Yosemite Drive and North Avenue 56.

The president arrived in Los Angeles Thursday.

Obama told supporters at a fundraiser Thursday night he hoped they would leave with the sense that completing “the unfinished business we’ve got… depends on you.”

If we want the change we believe in, then we’re going to have to work harder than ever in our own communities and in our own places of worship and in our own workplaces and reflect those values and ideals and then push this society and ultimately push Congress in the direction of change,” Obama told a crowd of approximately 250 at the home of filmmaker Tyler Perry near Beverly Hills.

Obama also used the 23-minute speech to recount his accomplishments as president — including the improved economy; increased production of wind and  solar power; rising high school graduation rates; fewer people without health insurance; and cutting the budget deficit.

“There’s almost no measure by which one could argue that we have not

made significant progress over these last 6 1/2 years,” Obama told the crowd that included “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, series co-star January Jones, Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA, and former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

“But we’ve got so much work to do. There’s so much that’s left undone. We still live in a country in which the idea of equal opportunity is not felt, is not experienced, is not lived for too many young people.”

Obama went on to call for “reforming our criminal justice system in a way that we are not incarcerating nonviolent offenders in ways that renders them incapable of getting a job after they” are released; increased spending on research and making college more affordable.

Obama will leave Highland Park and head to the San Francisco area, where he will speak at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and fundraisers for the DNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The president is expected to return to Southern California on Saturday, spending the night in the Coachella Valley.

Homeless Dwellings Removed from Arroyo Seco Channel

June 4, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

Struggling to push the bicycle loaded with his belongings along the bumpy path carved out of the brush next to the Arroyo Seco channel in Highland Park last week, a homeless man grumbled he was being forced to leave the encampment that was his home.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do! I don’t know where I’m going to go,” he said as he pushed his bike through a hole cut in the wire-mesh fencing next to the Avenue 57 exit on the Arroyo Seco Parkway-110 Pasadena Freeway.

Lea este artículo en Español: Indigentes Son Removidos del Canal de Arroyo Seco

He was one of more than two-dozen homeless people removed from illegal encampments located between Avenues 52 and 57; invisible to many of the drivers on the freeway.

But to residents living nearby, the network of knotted tarps, tents, clothes hanging from the bushes and fencing and growing piles of trash are not only an eyesore, they’re a public safety issue.

They demanded that the city clean up the area and move the homeless out.

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

In response, on May 25, as required by law, the city posted signs notifying encampment dwellers that they had three days to leave and remove their belongings before the city starts clearing the area on May 28.

The city’s departments of public works, parks and recreation, officers from the Hollenbeck and Northeast police divisions and the of Councilman Gil Cedillo (CD1), coordinated the cleanup.

County mental health workers and employees with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) were also called in to assist anyone wanting help: there were no takers.

“CD1 takes these complaints seriously,” Cedillo told EGP in an email. “The intent was not only to ensure the safety and livability for the surrounding community, but to also offer homeless services to the individuals living in the encampments and to get them connected with valuable social services,” he said.

About 30 people were living in the 17 encampments along the Arroyo, according to public works spokesman Jimmy Tokeshi. He said it took a day and a half to clear the 18 tons of trash and debris removed from the third-of-a-mile stretch along the freeway.

How to best deal with Los Angeles’ homeless population has sparked increased debate in recent months, from calls for more police enforcement to building more affordable housing.

Residents watching the cleanup such as Wendy Riser, said they’ve heard that some of the homeless in those encampments at some point were residents of Highland Park, but ended up on the streets because of different situations such as loosing their jobs, increase of rent, mental illness or drugs.

Several homeless in Northeast L.A. neighborhoods like Highland Park, Montecito Heights, Eagle Rock and Cypress Park have ties to the community, including family and friends who live nearby.

That was the case last week when a young woman, seeing the clearing underway, ran to the encampment in search of her mother who she told police had been living there with a boyfriend.

She wanted to know if her mother was ok, explained LAPD Officer Oscar Cassini. It’s not uncommon for relatives to know that a loved one is living at one of the homeless encampments, to keep track of them there, he said.

Some people might find that shocking, but there are lots of reasons why someone can’t take in the homeless person, Cassini said, referring to cases of mental illness or heavy drug use.

The number of people in Los Angeles living in “tents, makeshift shelters, and vehicles increased by 85% from 2013” when the number was 5,335,to 9,535 today, according to the recently released results of LAHSA’s 2015 Homeless Countdown.

Skyrocketing housing costs are a big part of the problem, claim affordable housing advocates.

According to LAHSA’s report, California’s lowest-income households spend about two-thirds of their income on housing.

The 2014 USC Casden Forecast reported that as of December 2014, the average monthly rent in the Los Angeles region was $1,716, making L.A. one of the top 10 most expensive places to rent in the U.S.

Outreach staff sent to last week’s encampment clearing spoke with 18 men and 7 women but were unable to get them to accept services, LAHSA Spokesperson Eileen Bryson told EGP by email. “Most of the encamped homeless dwellers were preoccupied with managing their personal items during the clean up,” she said.

According to Officer Cassini, many refuse offers to be placed in a shelter because they don’t like to “follow the rules.”

“Some of them do drugs and in the shelters you can’t do that,” he said, moments after taking one of the homeless men into custody on an outstanding warrant.

Bryson said crews removed a large number of illegal and dangerous items such as 117 hypodermic needles, 50 aerosol cans and 17 propane tanks.

Animal Control Services remove three chickens and a cat, she said.

Caltrans had to disconnect power lines illegally connected to light poles along the 110 Freeway, providing electricity to 6 of the encampments, Bryson said.

A passerby walking his dog found the removal activity troubling. Moving the homeless will not solve the problem, it’s “just a band aid,” said Christopher. There must be a better solution.

Cleanup of other encampments between Via Marisol and Bridewell Street along the Arroyo Seco channel started this week should be finished today, according to Tokeshi.

Crews will remove “trash and bulky items, and when appropriate store property found in the cleanup area within the framework of the court decisions aimed at protecting individual rights,” he said.

The 2015 Homeless Count report from LAHSA found that there are 25,686 people in the City of Los Angeles with no homes. In CD1 there are nearly 2,000.

—-
Twitter @jackieguzman
jgarcia@egpnews.com

Save the Date! Lummis Day 2015: June 5, 6, & 7

May 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Alternative Latino Rock band Cunao, pictured, will perform on Sunday, June 7 at Sycamore Grove Park. (Lummis Day Community Foundation)

Alternative Latino Rock band Cunao, pictured, will perform on Sunday, June 7 at Sycamore Grove Park. (Lummis Day Community Foundation)

 

Lummis Day, the prized Northeast Los Angeles Festival that draws thousands of people for a celebration of the famed author it’s named for as well as other local treasures turns 10 this year.

It’s also growing to include more sites – including Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, and tributes to other great contributors to local culture.

Three Days in 5 Different Location: here’s a sample of what’s going on:

     —Friday, June 5, Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, 4:00pm-8:00pm (in cooperation with the Boyle Heights Farmers Market). Music, dance, poetry and theater.

     —Saturday, June 6, Southwest Museum in Mount Washington, 10:00am-4:00pm  (in partnership with the Arroyo Arts Collective). Art exhibits, a tribute to the late artist, mentor and printmaker Richard Duardo, poetry and music.

     —Saturday, June 6, York Park in Highland Park, 2:00pm-6:00pm.  Opera, dance, jazz and rock music.

     —Sunday, June 7: Lummis Home in Montecito Heights, 10:30 am-5:00pm: Poetry, music, crafts exhibits.

—Sunday, June 7: Southwest Museum in Mt Washington, 12:noon-5:00pm: Art exhibits, music.

     Sunday, June 7: Sycamore Grove Park in Sycamore Grove/Highland Park., 12 noon-7:00 pm. Music, dance, puppets, storytelling and other family activities.

A complete schedule of events for all sites, parking information, and the location of shuttle bus stops and bicycle racks will be available at  www.LummisDay.org/.

Recent Violence Sparks Debate Over Gang Injunction ‘Tool’

May 7, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

Former gang member Abraham Colunga recalls the morning he was arrested for violating an order prohibiting gang members from associating with other gang members.

He said he was walking his daughter to school when he was suddenly taken into custody by police. His alleged crime? Being asked by a neighbor sitting in a police patrol car to notify his family that he had been arrested, a violation of a South Gate gang injunction.

He says the short conversation led to his arrest.

Lea este artículo en Español: Reciente Aumento de Violencia Provoca Debate Sobre Ordenes Judiciales 

“…I was taken to jail for 90 days,” he said during a forum in Highland Park last week where panelists debated the value of gang injunctions as a crime fighting tool.

Colunga says gang injunctions make it harder for gang members to turn their lives around, to get jobs, or to even be with family.

Panelists, representing the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, Los Angeles Police Department, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), gang intervention programs as well as two former gang members, all agreed gang violence is a serious problem, each coming at the issue from the unique perspective of their jobs and what they’ve experienced.

The forum, hosted by the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, was held at Franklin High School. It comes on the heels of a recent surge in gang related shootings in Northeast Los Angeles.

A panel of representatives of law enforcement, organizations and real testimonies spoke about the gang injunctions on Thursday. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

A panel of representatives of law enforcement, organizations and real testimonies spoke about the gang injunctions on Thursday. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Capt. Jeffrey Bert with LAPD’s northeast division attributed the rising violence to feuding between the Avenues and HLP gangs in Highland Park. So far this year, gang related crime is up 67% compared to last year, Bert said. There were 20 shootings between Avenues and Highland Park between February 6, 2015 and April 18, 2015; some of the victims were innocent bystanders.

In response, LAPD has stepped up the number of officers patrolling the area as some residents  call for greater gang suppression tactics.

Gang injunctions are such a tool, said City Attorney Arturo Martinez, who explained injunctions are civil court orders prohibiting gang members from congregating with each other or committing crimes on behalf of the gang enterprise. Considered by law enforcement to be one of the most effective legal gang suppression tools, gang injunctions detail activities that are restricted in a an identified gang territory, such as tagging, selling or possessing drugs or a gun, drinking in public or staying out after an imposed curfew: all activities one panelists said are already crimes and don’t need a gang injunction to be considered illegal.

There are currently more than 46 permanent gang injunctions in place in Los Angeles, according to the City Attorney’s website. Three target gangs in Highland Park: Avenues, HLP and Dogtown.

How gang injunctions are obtained and enforced has changed over the years in response to what they’ve learned, explained Martinez.

He said the department no longer lists the names of believed gang members on the injunctions. Instead, they target the gang as a criminal entity, similar to what the federal government did with the Mafia. To convict someone of a gang injunction violation, there must be sufficient evidence proving the person acted in a way that benefits the gang and harms the community.

“We have served 504 members of Avenues since April 2003, 51 members of Dogtown since January 2009, and 141 members of Highland Park since December of 2006,” and that contributed to the large drop in crime we had before now, Capt. Bert said.

Catherine Wagner of the Southern California Chapter of the ACLU said gang injunctions violate an individual’s right to due process. She said some people don’t know they are subject to the injunction until they are arrested for violating a misdemeanor and have to prove in court why the gang injunction should not apply to them.

The process “puts the burden on the individual to prove he or she is not a gang member” when it should be the government proving it has cause to curtail your rights, Wagner said.

She said the injunctions criminalize activities most people take for granted, like visiting a family member in the hospital or going to a park, even when there is no evidence of illegal activity going on, and that’s wrong.

According to Alba S. Cerda, director of youth violence and gang prevention with Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, there is a strong disconnect between whether a person thinks of them self as a gang member and what law enforcement thinks. Young people living in a neighborhood with a strong gang presence will know gang members, they may even be friendly and associate publicly with them, or live in the same house, she said. But that doesn’t mean they consider themselves a member of the gang or are engaged in criminal activity or doing the gang’s bidding, she said, explaining the dynamics are very complex.

“Gang injunctions in the City of LA are permanent. Violating the terms of the injunction is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or $1,000 fine,” Rob Wilcox, director of community engagement and outreach for the City Attorney’s office told EGP via email.

During the forum however, Martinez said there is a process for removing one’s self from the injunction order, starting with an application on the city attorney’s website. To date, 130 people have applied for removal. Wilcox said the process takes some time to complete and can vary case to case depending on how long it takes to vet the information submitted.

Cerda sees gangs as a public health issue that needs to be solved, not with restraining orders, but with prevention and guidance. She said poverty and quality of life issues contribute to gang involvement. Ninety percent of the families her program serves don’t have transportation; as many as five or six people share a one bedroom apartment, she said.

“Law enforcement strategies are inadequate, there has to be a balance” between prevention and enforcement, she said.

“Youth 10-15 are the most vulnerable,” either because they come from multi-generational gang member families or due to the extreme poverty, Cerda said. They suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome; … from being in a home where a raid takes place, Cerda said.

“We need to invest as much as we can” to keep young people out of jail, agreed Bert.

LAPD Northeast Division Lt. John Cook applauds organizations like Aztecs Rising in Lincoln Heights that provide prevention and intervention service in the northeast area.

“They take them to places where they have never been,” he said. “They help them find jobs and help them finish school.”

L.A. recently approved an additional $5.5 million for Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) programs.

Gemma Marquez teaches at Burbank Middle School and told EGP that meetings that only give out statistics are worthless. She hopes LAPD participates more with the community and provides real resources.

Citing his work with Childrens Hospital and other community groups working on prevention, Bert said northeast police are working to build partnerships in the community.

But there’s no denying that gang injunctions are still an important law enforcement tool that is helping LAPD suppress gang activity, he added.

“It’s very easy to call about crime, but it’s harder to fight it,” said Bert.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

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