Programa de Verano Mantiene a Jóvenes Fuera de Problemas

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Según estadísticas, cuando la temperatura sube y la escuela está cerrada, los jóvenes de los barrios con pocos recursos y menos actividades para mantenerse ocupados se encuentran en un mayor riesgo de involucrarse en problemas.

Es un hecho que los funcionarios de la ciudad y la policía están muy conscientes de ello, y es la razón detrás de un programa que mantiene muchos de los parques de la ciudad de Los Ángeles y los centros de recreación abiertos por la noche durante el verano.

Read this article in English: Summer Night Lights: Alternative to Trouble

Ahora en su octavo año, el programa Summer Night Lights (SNL) ofrece deportes gratis, arte y otras actividades y comida gratis para los niños/jóvenes y sus familias en muchos de los barrios densamente poblados de la ciudad.

La residente de Highland Park Teresa Martínez ha estado llevando sus hijos al Centro de Recreación de Highland Park por los últimos dos años para que tengan un poco de diversión en el verano.

“Hay muchas actividades ocurriendo y el programa de Summer Night Lights es muy popular en esta área”, le dijo a EGP. “Ofrecen comida gratis, bebidas, música, rifas, un montón de cosas”, agregó.

Este año, la hija de Martínez de 10 años juega en un equipo de softbol, mientras que su hijo de 13 años espera unirse a un equipo de baloncesto.

Cuando los chicos están ocupados haciendo cosas que disfrutan, son menos propensos a meterse en problemas o ser reclutados por las pandillas, dijo el entonces concejal, y ahora alcalde Eric Garcetti cuando encabezó el programa hace ocho años como una forma de combatir la actividad de las pandillas en Glassell Park y los barrios circundantes. En asociación con la Oficina de Desarrollo Juvenil y Reducción de Pandillas (GRYD) y la Ciudad de Los Ángeles, el programa de “parque en la noche” se ha expandido a 32 lugares de la ciudad.

El programa Summer Night Lights esta disponible en 32 parques de la ciudad hasta el 28 de agosto de 2015. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

El programa Summer Night Lights esta disponible en 32 parques de la ciudad hasta el 28 de agosto de 2015. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

También ha demostrado ser una buena herramienta para reducir los crímenes violentos, mientras que promueve paz, actividades positivas y resultados saludables para los residentes, según GRYD. Summer Night Lights se centra en las zonas más afectadas por la violencia de las pandillas, el desempleo, y con altas concentraciones de jóvenes y adultos jóvenes.

“Esta es una gran oportunidad de participar con los jóvenes y crear un punto positivo” de contacto, Christopher Gómez, sargento de la División Noreste de LAPD le dijo a EGP. Agregó que su Unidad de Problemas Especiales supervisa las localidades de Glassell Park y Highland Park, ayudando a que las familias se sientan más cómodas con sus jóvenes que participan en las actividades del parque.

Martínez dijo que al principio dudaba en llevar a sus hijos al parque donde algunos programas deportivos se llevan a cabo hasta las 11pm. Esos temores ya se han disipado: “Siempre hay mucha actividad de la policía y hay mucha participación de los padres también”, explicó, agregando que ahora se siente contenta de que Summer Night Lights se ofrezca en Highland Park.

Según GRYD, en 2014 se registraron más de 900.000 visitas en los 32 sitios de Summer Night Lights. Hubo una reducción del 15,4% en los delitos—relacionados con pandillas de miércoles a sábado entre el 25 de junio y el 9 de agosto—en comparación con el mismo periodo de 2013. Más de medio millón de comidas gratis fueron servidas durante las horas del programa.

Según las autoridades, más de 10.000 jóvenes han participado en las ligas deportivas de fútbol, baloncesto y béisbol, y en clínicas deportivas con los LA Kings, LA Galaxy, LA D-fenders, Play Rubgy USA, CHIVAS USA y la WNBA/Coca Cola.

El horario del programa es de 7pm a 11pm de miércoles a sábado en parques y centros de recreación selectos. Algunas de las actividades que ofrecen dichas localidades este año incluyen:

- Arte: talleres de arte nocturnos, artes culinarias, serigrafía, pintura de murales, zumba, hip-hop y poesía.

- Deportes: ligas de baloncesto, softbol y/o ligas de fútbol para todas las edades;

- Eventos especiales: conciertos de música, salud/estado físico, noches de películas, recursos de ciencia y alfabetización;

- Comidas saludables por la noche;

- Departamento de Recursos de Salud Pública.

El programa también contrata a algunos jóvenes, de edades 17-24, para trabajar en las localidades participantes. En 2014, se crearon 1.068 puestos de trabajo locales y 325 jóvenes en riesgo fueron contratados y se les proporcionó entrenamiento continuo.

Este año se ha añadido una evaluación pre-programa enfocada en la identificación de las carreras y metas para los jóvenes que participan en el programa educativo de Summer Night Lights.

Algunas localidades que ofrecen el programa son:

– 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

Para obtener más información, visite: http://grydfoundation.org/programs/summer-night-lights/

 —-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

LAPD Officer Injured During Chase

June 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A Los Angeles Police Department officer was injured during a stolen vehicle chase that ended in South Pasadena last Friday.

A unit from the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Station began chasing the vehicle about 5:50 p.m. Friday, Officer Jane Kim of the Media Relations Section said.

The chase ended on the Pasadena (110) Freeway at Garfield Avenue, a South Pasadena police dispatcher said.

The suspect was taken into custody, Kim said.

It was unclear how the officer was hurt, or if the chase ended with a crash, but the injury does not appear to be life-threatening, Kim said.

Activists Want LAPD Officer Charged

June 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Community activists Wednesday urged District Attorney Jackie Lacey to file criminal charges against an LAPD officer found by the Police Commission to have violated department policy in the fatal shooting of an unarmed, mentally ill black man.

The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled on Tuesday that one officer violated department policy, but another was justified in firing his weapon at Ezell Ford.

In ruling that Officer Sharlton Wampler’s use of deadly force in the death of Ford last August violated Los Angeles Police Department policy, the commission rejected Chief Charlie Beck’s finding that Wampler had adhered to policy.

Beck will ultimately decide what discipline, if any, the officers will face. The District Attorney’s Office will review the shooting to determine if any criminal charges are warranted, Steve Soboroff said Tuesday.

“This is a tragedy for all involved — the family, relatives, loved ones and friends of Mr. Ford, as well as the involved police officers,” Soboroff said. “To the Ford family, my fellow Police Commissioners and I extend our sincere sympathies for your profound loss.”

Soboroff went on to say the LAPD has the most extensive review process in the nation for use-of-force incidents.

“Our review of this incident has been intense and intensive,” he said announcing the decision.

Activists and Ford’s family disagree.

Lacey “should file criminal charges against Wampler,” community activist Najee Ali said at a news conference outside the District Attorney’s Office in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday morning.

“We want justice,” Ali told reporters. “We want Wampler prosecuted — at the very least for assault under color of authority. The community cares about Ezell Ford being shot and killed by the LAPD.”

The commission ruled there was no reason to have detained Ford in the first place and that Wampler badly mishandled the encounter, leading to the fatal confrontation. It said its ruling was based on the “totality” of the circumstances, not just the moment when force was used.

Wampler’s partner, Antonio Villegas, was found to have been much less culpable, with the panel objecting to his initial decision to draw his weapon early in the confrontation but upholding his decision to fire at Ford to protect Wampler.

Autopsy results showed Ford was shot three times — in the right side of his back, the right arm and the right abdomen. The gunshot wounds to the back and the abdomen were both fatal, according to the report.

Ford was pronounced dead in an operating room at California Hospital Medical Center.

The autopsy report noted that the gunshot wound on Ford’s back had “muzzle imprint,” indicating the shot was fired at close range, and that Ford had some marijuana in his system.

Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said the union supports Beck’s findings that both officers involved in the shooting were justified and their actions were in policy.

“Chief Beck’s findings were based on facts presented and his over 40 years of law enforcement,” Lally said in a statement. “Every day, LAPD officers are put directly in harm’s way as they face complex situations, unthinkable dangers and split-second decisions all in an effort to protect the citizens of Los Angeles. On the other hand, we are extremely disappointed in the findings of the Police Commission.”

Lally contended the commission was swayed by protesters and external political influences, “resulting in a determination that was purely political and self-serving. We believe the commission’s decision was irresponsible and reckless and was solely made to avoid civil unrest.”

The five-member commission deliberated behind closed doors for several hours before announcing its decision. In a raucous public meeting beforehand, commissioners heard dozens of people urging that both officers be held accountable for Ford’s death.

“I’m begging you, please, please. My son would never grab for no gun,” Ford’s mother Tritobia said. “He wanted to live … He walked the streets. I didn’t want him to walk the streets around there because I know it was unsafe. That was his right. And he didn’t deserve to die for it…”

“Please, think about it. Ezell was mentally ill. He wasn’t a lunatic. He wasn’t suicidal, he wanted to live,” Ford’s mother said. “These officers did wrong. They did wrong.”

Ford, 25, was fatally shot on Aug. 11, 2014, near 65th Street and Broadway. Police said the officers approached Ford for acting suspiciously, and he lunged at one of them and began trying to grab Wampler’s weapon.

Beck and the department’s independent watchdog, Inspector General Alex Bustamante, each concluded in separate reports that the officers were justified in their actions, although Bustamante faulted the tactics used by one of the officers in approaching Ford in the first place.

The Police Commission, which has the final say on whether the officers acted properly, met behind closed doors for more than three hours reviewing the investigations and concluded that some of the officers’ actions were within department policy and some were not.

Beck will ultimately decide what discipline, if any, Wampler will face. The District Attorney’s Office will review the shooting to determine if any criminal charges are warranted.

Ford’s family filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit last September against the LAPD, alleging Ford was shot in the back as he lay on the ground.

According to the lawsuit, Wampler and Villegas — who are named plaintiffs — engaged in an unlawful search and seizure of Ford, denied him due process, used excessive force and violated his civil rights.

“No officer goes to work with the intent of using deadly force,” Lally said. “Officers may be compelled to use force when there is an objectively reasonable certainty that there could be injury to themselves or someone else. In the case of Ezell Ford, the only reason one would attempt to take an officer’s weapon is to use it against the officer, his partner or an innocent bystander.”

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

Expolicía de Los Ángeles Acusado de Asesinato Comparece en Corte

May 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

El expolicía de Los Ángeles Henry Solís, extraditado este martes de México, compareció el miércoles ante un magistrado de El Paso, Texas para iniciar su procesamiento acusado de asesinato, informó el Buró Federal de Investigaciones (FBI).

“Solís tuvo una primera comparecencia en la corte municipal en El Paso con un cargo de fugitivo local”, informó en un comunicado la agencia policial federal.

El también exinfante de Marina de EE.UU., que se encuentra bajo custodia federal en una cárcel del condado de El Paso, está acusado en Los Ángeles de asesinar a un hombre identificado como Salomé Rodríguez hace dos meses.

“Solís esperará procedimientos de extradición en El Paso, donde se determinará si será regresado a Los Ángeles y cuándo para ser procesado por el Fiscal de Distrito del Condado de Los Ángeles”, informó el FBI.

Según la denuncia penal presentada en el Tribunal de Distrito de EE.UU. en Los Ángeles, Solís estuvo involucrado en un altercado físico con la presunta víctima en una zona céntrica de Pomona, el 13 de marzo de 2015.

“Solís supuestamente perseguía a la víctima a pie y le disparó varias veces, causándole la muerte, según la denuncia”, señaló el FBI en un comunicado.
Los hechos ocurrieron durante una pelea en una zona de clubes nocturnos y cuando Solís se encontraba fuera de servicio.

De acuerdo a informes del FBI, el 14 de marzo el acusado había sido detectado por las cámaras de seguridad del Puente Internacional Paso del Norte, en la zona centro de El Paso, durante su ingreso a Ciudad Juárez, acompañado por su padre, Víctor Manuel Solís.

Reportes de los investigadores indican que Solís había estado residiendo en la zona de la Colonia El Mezquital, en Ciudad Juárez, con miembros de su familia.

“Solís estaba viviendo en México, en violación de la ley de inmigración mexicana y anoche fue deportado a los Estados Unidos”, informó el FBI.

Eastside Foot Patrols Next Step in Community Policing

May 21, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Authorities Monday announced a program to double the number of police footbeat patrols in the Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights and El Sereno areas.

The “Hollenbeck Community Partners Program” will add four “corridors” to the existing four corridors that are patrolled on foot by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Station.

Officers will work with businesses and residents to improve the quality of life in the community, LAPD officials said at a late-morning news conference at Mariachi Plaza, at First Street and Boyle Avenue.

The program takes LAPD’s community policing efforts to a higher level, Hollenbeck Capt. Martin Baeza told EGP.

Baeza said the timing could not be better given the recent nationwide focus on police interactions with the community, many of which have negative overtones.

Councilman Jose Huizar and officers from the LAPD Hollenbeck division announce community policing during a press conference last week.  (Courtesy of Councilmember Jose Huizar)

Councilman Jose Huizar and officers from the LAPD Hollenbeck division announce community policing during a press conference last week. (Courtesy of Councilmember Jose Huizar)

“What this program does is put our police officers out in the community, where they can get to know the community and the community can get to know them,” Baeza said. “They will get to know people’s name and hear their concerns,” the captain said.

Councilman Jose Huizar represents the area and strongly supports Beaza’s effort.

He said the community has been asking for footbeat patrols to be expanded to other areas for some time, but it took a while to marshal the resources and get everything in place.

“The timing is great,” said Huizar. “We’ve been working hard on the commercial corridors in the area, to make them more walkable, the police foot patrols will add to that,” the councilman said.

Residents will feel safer, business owners will feel safer and visitors to the area will feel safer, and that’s a positive thing for the community, Huizar said.

Growing up in Boyle Heights, Huizar said the LAPD did not always have a good relationship with the community, but times have changed and the majority of residents welcome the larger police presence in their neighborhoods.

While crime across the city has dropped significantly over the last decade, reaching lows not seen in decades, Baez says there’s still more to do.

But the police can’t do it alone, he said, adding that they need the cooperation of the community.

“That’s why I named it the ‘Hollenbeck Community Partners Program,’ to show that it takes everyone working together to solve problems,” Baeza told EGP.

“We are working with the [City Attorney’s] neighborhood prosecutor for the area, the chamber of commerce” and other groups to solve quality of life issues in these areas, emphasized the captain.

Footbeat patrol officers will not replace senior lead officers in the area, but will work directly with them, he said

Nor will the increase of officers walking reduce the number of patrol cars, he added, explaining the division was able to secure six additional officers to beef up the number of police assigned to Hollenbeck. “We had support from the top of the department.”

All of the 16 officers assigned to the footbeats volunteered for the assignment, according to Baeza. He said, like him, several of the officers have roots in the local community. At least one officer on each patrol team speaks Spanish, he said.

“And I think in our community, which is an immigrant community, I think it’s very important that the community have a trust with the police,” Baeza said.

“What Capt. Baeza has proposed is the next step in community policing,” said Huizar. “We will be looking at it, to see how it works, and if it’s something that will work in other neighborhoods.”

The eight footbeat patrol corridors are:

— Cesar Chavez Boulevard between State Street and Evergreen Avenue;

— North Broadway between Avenue 21 and Lincoln Park Boulevard;

— Huntington Drive between Eastern Avenue and Pueblo Street;

— Whittier Boulevard between Indiana Avenue and Lorena Street;

— Soto Street between Olympic and Whittier boulevards;

— Olympic Boulevard between Soto and Camulos streets;

— Eastern Avenue between Huntington Drive and Klamath Street; and

— First Street Between Boyle Avenue and Soto Street.

 

Duplican Número de Oficiales de Policía a Pie en la División Hollenbeck

May 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Autoridades anunciaron el lunes un programa para duplicar el número de oficiales de policía a pie en zonas de Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights y El Sereno.

El “Programa de Socios de la Comunidad de Hollenbeck” agregará cuatro “Corredores” a los cuatro existentes que se patrullan a pie por los oficiales del Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles, División Hollenbeck.

Los oficiales trabajarán con las empresas y los residentes para mejorar la calidad de la vida en la comunidad, dijeron funcionarios del LAPD en conferencia de prensa el lunes por la mañana en Mariachi Plaza, en la calle Primera y la Avenida Boyle.

Concejal José Huizar (CD-14) anuncia expansión del programa junto a oficiales de policía de la división Hollenbeck. (Foto cortesía de la oficina del Concejal Huizar)

Concejal José Huizar (CD-14) anuncia expansión del programa junto a oficiales de policía de la división Hollenbeck. (Foto cortesía de la oficina del Concejal Huizar)

“Este es un esfuerzo de base”, dijo el capitán de policía de Hollenbeck Martín Baeza a CBS2. “Creo que en nuestra comunidad, que es una comunidad de inmigrantes, es muy importante que [tengan] confianza con la policía”, agregó Baeza.

Los ocho corredores con oficiales de policía a pie son:

-Bulevar César Chávez entre la Calle State y la Avenida Evergreen;

-North Broadway entre la Avenida 21 y el Bulevar Lincoln Park;

-Huntington Drive entre  la Avenida Eastern y la Calle Pueblo;

-Whittier Bulevar entre la Avenida Indiana y la Calle Lorena;

–Calle Soto entre los bulevares Olympic y Whittier;

–Bulevar Olympic entre las calles Soto y Camulos;

–Avenida Eastern entre Huntington Drive y la Calle Klamath; y

–Calle Primera entre la Avenida Boyle y la Calle Soto.

 

Reciente Aumento de Violencia Provoca Debate Sobre Ordenes Judiciales

May 7, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

El ex miembro de pandillas Abraham Colunga recuerda aquella mañana cuando fue arrestado por violar una orden que prohíbe a miembros de pandillas asociarse con otros miembros de las mismas.

Explicó que mientras llevaba a su hija a la escuela repentinamente fue puesto en custodia por la policía. ¿Su presunto delito? Hablar con su vecino quien estaba sentado en una patrulla de policía y le pedía que notificará a su familia de lo sucedido. Sin darse cuenta, Colunga cometió una violación de un mandato judicial antipandillas en South Gate, debido a que su vecino era miembro de una pandilla.

Colunga dice que la breve conversación condujo a su arresto.

Read this article in English: Recent Violence Sparks Debate Over Gang Injunction Tool

“… Me llevaron a la cárcel por 90 días”, dijo durante un foro en Highland Park la semana pasada, donde los panelistas debatieron sobre el valor de los mandatos judiciales antipandillas como herramienta de lucha contra el crimen.

Colunga dice que estos mandatos judiciales hacen más difícil que los miembros de pandillas que desean cambiar sus vidas obtengan trabajos e incluso afectan a sus familias.

Los panelistas—representando a la oficina del Fiscal de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles, el Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles, la Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles (ACLU),  programas de intervención de pandillas, así como dos jóvenes exponiendo sus testimonios—cada uno tomando el problema desde la perspectiva única de sus puestos de trabajo y lo que han experimentado acordaron que la violencia de pandillas es un problema serio.

El foro, organizado por el Consejo Vecinal del Histórico Highland Park, se llevó a cabo en la Preparatoria Franklin y llega a raíz del reciente aumento de tiroteos relacionados con pandillas en el noreste de Los Ángeles.

Un panel de representantes de autoridades de la ley, organizaciones y jóvenes con testimonios hablaron sobre las ordenes judiciales. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

Un panel de representantes de autoridades de la ley, organizaciones y jóvenes con testimonios hablaron sobre las ordenes judiciales. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

El capitán Jeffrey Bert con la división noreste del LAPD atribuyó el origen a un feudo entre las pandillas Avenues y HLP en Highland Park. En lo que va de este año, la delincuencia relacionada con las pandillas subió en un 67% en comparación con el año pasado, dijo Bert. Han habido 20 tiroteos entre las pandillas Avenues y HLP entre el 6 de febrero y el 18 de abril de 2015; con algunas víctimas inocentes.

En respuesta, el LAPD ha incrementado el número de agentes que patrullan la zona puesto que algunos residentes exigen mayores tácticas de supresión de pandillas.

Los mandatos judiciales antipandillas son una herramienta de este tipo, dijo el abogado del fiscal, Arturo Martínez, quien explicó que los mandatos son órdenes judiciales civiles que prohíben que pandilleros se reúnan entre sí o cometan delitos en nombre de las pandillas. Considerado por la policía como una de las herramientas de supresión de pandillas legales más eficaces, los mandatos judiciales antipandillas detallan actividades que son restringidas en un territorio identificado por una pandilla, tales como el ‘tagging’ (rayar paredes), venta o posesión de drogas o un arma de fuego, beber en público o permanecer fuera después de un toque de queda impuesto: todas las actividades ya son crímenes, dijo uno de los panelistas, y no es necesario un mandato judicial para ser considerado ilegal.

Actualmente hay más de 46 mandatos judiciales antipandillas permanentes en Los Ángeles, según el sitio web de la Fiscalía de la ciudad. Tres pandillas fueron etiquetadas en Highland Park: Avenues, HLP y Dogtown.

Cómo se obtienen y se aplican los mandatos ha cambiado con los años, en respuesta a lo que se ha aprendido con cada uno, explicó Martínez.

Él dijo que el departamento ya no muestra los nombres de los miembros de pandillas en los mandatos. En su lugar, se dirigen a la pandilla como una entidad criminal, similar a lo que el gobierno federal hizo con la mafia. Para condenar a alguien de una violación del mandato judicial, debe haber suficiente evidencia que demuestre que la persona actuó de una manera que beneficie a la pandilla y perjudica a la comunidad.

“Hemos servido a 504 miembros de Avenues desde abril de 2003, 51 miembros de Dogtown desde enero de 2009, y 141 miembros de Highland Park desde diciembre de 2006”, y que contribuyeron a la gran caída en el crimen que teníamos hasta ahora, dijo el capitán Bert.

Catherine A. Wagner de la división del Sur de California de la ACLU dijo que los mandatos judiciales antipandillas violan el derecho del individuo a un debido proceso. Ella dijo que algunas personas no saben que están sujetos a la medida cautelar hasta que son arrestados por violar un delito menor y tienen que probar en corte por qué el mandato judicial no se les debe aplicar.

El proceso “pone la carga en el individuo para demostrar que él o ella no es un miembro de la pandilla” cuando debería ser el gobierno quien demuestre que tiene motivos para restringir sus derechos, dijo Wagner.

Ella dijo que los mandatos penalizan actividades que la mayoría de la gente da por sentado, como visitar a un familiar en el hospital o ir a un parque, incluso cuando no hay evidencia de que este ocurriendo actividad ilegal, y eso está mal.

Según Alba S. Cerda, directora de violencia juvenil y prevención de pandillas con el Hospital Infantil de Los Ángeles, hay una fuerte desconexión entre lo que una persona piensa de si misma como miembro de una pandilla y lo que la ley piensa. Los jóvenes que viven en barrios con una fuerte presencia de pandillas tal vez conocen a pandilleros, pueden incluso ser amables y asociarse públicamente con ellos, o viven en la misma casa, dijo. Pero eso no significa que ellos se consideran un miembro de la pandilla, que se dedican a la actividad delictiva o que están bajo las ordenes de la pandilla, dijo, explicando que la dinámica es muy compleja.

“Los mandatos  judiciales antipandillas en la ciudad de Los Ángeles son permanentes. La violación de los términos de la orden judicial es un delito menor punible con hasta 6 meses de prisión y/o una multa de $1.000”, Rob Wilcox, director de comunicaciones de la oficina del fiscal de la ciudad le dijo a EGP el lunes vía email.

Durante el foro, Martínez dijo que hay un proceso para eliminarse del mandato judicial, mediante una solicitud que encuentran en la página web de la oficina del Fiscal (http://www.atty.lacity.org/CRIMINAL/GangInjunctions/index.htm). Hasta la fecha, 130 personas han solicitado removerse. Wilcox dijo que el proceso toma tiempo para completar y puede variar de un caso a otro, dependiendo de cuánto tiempo tome para investigar a la información presentada.

Cerda ve las pandillas como un problema de salud pública que debe ser resuelto, no con órdenes de alejamiento, pero con la prevención y orientación. Ella dijo que la pobreza y la calidad de vida contribuyen a la participación en pandillas. El noventa por ciento de familias que su programa sirve no tienen transporte y en otros casos hasta cinco o seis personas comparten un apartamento de una recamara, dijo.

“Las estrategias de la ley son inadecuadas, tiene que haber un equilibrio” entre la prevención y la ejecución, agregó.

“Los jóvenes de 10-15 años son los más vulnerables”, ya sea porque vienen de familias con miembros de pandillas multi-generacionales o debido a la pobreza extrema, dijo Cerda. Ellos sufren de síndrome de estrés postraumático, dijo Cerda.

“Tenemos que invertir tanto como podamos” para mantener a los jóvenes fuera de la cárcel, acordó Bert.

El teniente del LAPD División Noreste John Cook aplaude a organizaciones como Aztecs Rising en Lincoln Heights que proporcionan prevención y servicio de intervención en la zona noreste.

“[Ellos] los llevan a lugares donde nunca han ido”, dijo. “Les ayudan a obtener puestos de trabajo y les ayudan a terminar la escuela”.

La ciudad de Los Ángeles recientemente aprobó $5.5 millones adicionales para programas de Reducción de Pandillas y Desarrollo de Jóvenes (GRYD).

Gemma Márquez, quien da clases en la Escuela Intermedia Burbank le dijo a EGP que las reuniones que sólo dan estadísticas no valen nada. Ella espera que el LAPD participe más con la comunidad y proporcione recursos reales.

Citando su trabajo con el Hospital Infantil y otros grupos de la comunidad que trabajan en la prevención, Bert dijo que la policía del noreste está trabajando para crear asociaciones en la comunidad.

Pero no se puede negar que los mandatos judiciales antipandillas continúan siendo una importante herramienta de aplicación de la ley que está ayudando a LAPD a reducir la actividad de pandillas, agregó.

“Es muy fácil anunciar el crimen, pero es más difícil atacarlo”, dijo Bert.

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Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

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.

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Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

Rules for LAPD Body Cameras Approved

April 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners signed off Tuesday on rules for the use of body cameras for LAPD officers, clearing the way for the department to begin equipping personnel with the device over the coming months.

The commission voted 3-1 to approve the policies, with Commissioner Robert Saltzman casting the lone dissenting vote, following nearly two hours of debate that at times turned contentious.

Saltzman said he was “frustrated” that commissioners and the public were not able to view and comment on the policies before the LAPD reached an agreement with the police officers’ union on body cameras.

He said he was concerned about giving officers who are involved in police shootings or other use-of-force cases the ability to view the video footage before giving their statements.

Saltzman also said the policies do not address the issue of whether the video footage will be released to the public, nor do they address any limitations as to how the department will be able to use the footage.

Commission President Steve Soboroff countered that the public has had many opportunities to give input on the policies over the past few months. He also said the commission will have the opportunity to re-assess the policies in six months, once the officers have actually put the body cameras to use.

Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the commission Tuesday that the ACLU no longer supports the body camera policy, despite being “optimistic” when the 18-month policy drafting process began.

The body camera policy “fails to address some crucial issues,” including allowing officers to view footage while they are being investigated, Bibring said.

Giving officers the chance to view the footage before giving their statements “taints officer testimony” and would “assist officers who are inclined to do so in lying” about what happened, he said.

LAPD Police Administrator Arif Alikhan said that the release of the body camera video footage was not addressed in the use-policy because the department will “abide by the law,” which includes complying with court orders.

He also said releasing the footage to the public would have a “tremendous cost.”

Chief Charlie Beck said as a general rule, the footage is considered evidence, which is not automatically released to the public, but that does not mean he will never release the footage.

The rules address questions of when the video cameras must be turned on, how long the recordings should last, how the devices are to be maintained and inspected, how the footage should be stored and if officers are allowed to immediately view the recordings.

Under the policy, officers involved in use-of-force incidents, such as police shootings, would not be allowed to view footage from a body camera unless the force investigator gives permission, but officers must view the video before being interviewed by investigators.

The policy also calls for body cameras to be activated before an investigation or enforcement action begins, such as vehicle or pedestrian stops, car and foot chases, searches, arrests, use-of-force, witness and victim interviews, and crowd control.

If an officer is unable to activate the camera in time, or if the camera fails to record, the officer must note the reasons and circumstances in a daily log.

Under the rules, officers are be allowed to stop recording if the witnesses or victims being interviewed say they will not make a statement on camera, and as long as the encounter is not confrontational.

Officers can decide not to record if they feel it would interfere with an investigation — such as in a rape, incest or sexual assault cases — or due to a victim’s or witness’ age, emotional or physical state or other sensitive factors.

They can also deactivate the camera if they feel the life of an undercover officer or informant is in danger, and if they are in a healthcare area with patients or at a rape treatment center.

In a prepared statement issued Tuesday morning, Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the labor union representing police officers, said the LAPPL “worked closely” over the past several months to develop the draft policy.

Video recordings are “extremely beneficial for providing a reliable account of events and helping officers to get criminals off the streets,” the statement said, but are also “critical for our officers and the public to remember” that the cameras offer only a “limited perspective and are not to be relied upon as the sole piece of evidence.”

It should be used “in conjunction with all other available evidence, including witness statements, officer interviews, forensic analyses and documentary evidence when evaluating what has occurred and/or the appropriateness of the officer’s actions,” according to Lally.

Lally said the union supports the policy, which he feels “balances everyone’s rights and interests,” adding that the body cameras “will help promote mutual accountability, accuracy and assistance in the continued effort to strengthen the community’s trust as LAPD officers strive to protect and serve the residents of Los Angeles.”

The department plans to initially assign 860 Taser Axon body cameras — donated to the city through Police Commission fundraising efforts — to officers in the Central, Mission and Newton police divisions.

Mayor Eric Garcetti recently proposed buying another 7,000 cameras to outfit all of LAPD’s patrol officers.

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