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Gang Injunction Wednesday August 21 2013 1
Echo Park Gang Injunction Hearing August 21st
Echo Park is about to join that unhappy group of over 50 Los Angeles communities, where gang activity has forced the city to resort to an effective, but sometimes controversial, tool to help control crime. Advancing a petition filed by his predecessor in office, City Attorney Mike Feuer will go before a Superior Court judge to enjoin members of the Big Top Locos, Crazys, Diamond Street Locos, Echo Park Locos, Frogtown and Head Hunters street gangs from criminal activity in a 3.8-square-mile "Safety Zone." These rival gangs have been feuding for many years, resulting in extensive graffiti, vandalism, aggravated assaults, shootings and murders. "Our residents have the right to all of our public areas, including Echo Park, free of gang crime and intimidation," stated former City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, when he filed the petition in June.
The "Gangs of Echo Park" were featured in a Los Angeles Magazine article by David Mark Simpson last month. " When a bunch of Frogtown members jump and rob a cyclist on the river path or a Diamond Street Loco misses his target and instead kills a 4-year-old, newcomers and longtime residents share anguish and frustration, but gangs have been in Echo Park for so long that for some residents who grew up in the neighborhood they are part of the fabric of the community," he wrote.
"The gangs are still here causing nightly heartbreak. They aren’t as flagrant as they once were. Among the reasons: the huge drop in crack use, intense gang intervention efforts by former gang members, and police strategies that include upping their presence."
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DIAMOND STREET LOCOS
The Diamond Street Locos made their first appearance in the Los Angeles Times in 1973—as victims: An unarmed 17-year-old kid, an alleged Diamond Street member, was shot dead by a school security guard at Belmont High School in Westlake. The kid had been suspended from Belmont but returned to the school and an altercation with the guard ensued. The security guard was transferred but kept his job, sparking Chicano activists to organize walkouts.
By 1979 the gang was committing “rat pack” assaults, in which 35 to 40 members would quickly attack, for example, a group of guards outside a Downtown Bank of America. The gang’s leader, a 19-year-old named Juan “Fat Johnny” Contreras, was arrested during one of the assaults and sentenced in the early 1980s.
In 1980 Diamond Street and a few other gangs made an unlikely ally: the neighborhood’s gay community. In the late ‘70s, gay men were victims of hate-fueled attacks by gang members. Gay community activists reached out to gang leaders and Diamond Street responded, ultimately joining forces to help organize the Sunset Junction Street Fair, which was successful for more than 30 years (until 2011 when organizers filed for bankruptcy).
These warm-fuzzy fairs didn’t stop Diamond Street members from driving out to Santa Ana to murder members of a rival gang, F Troop, several times throughout the ‘80s. Or from killing an Echo Park 4-year- old with a stray bullet.
The proposed Safety Zone is bound by the Los Angeles River to the north, the Harbor (110) Freeway to the east, First Street to the South and North Coronado Street to the west. The targeted area includes the newly renovated Echo Park Lake. The petition asks for standard gang injunction provisions, including prohibiting association with other gang members in public, intimidating or harassing members of the community, possessing firearms or narcotics, or consuming alcohol in public. If granted, the order would complement existing gang injunctions in the Rampart area and in at least four dozen other communities of Los Angeles. A hearing is scheduled for August 21st in Superior Court.
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ECHO PARK LOCOS
Echo Park Locos have dominated the neighborhood for decades. They are so embedded in the community that the line between organized criminals and civic leaders often blurs. This was probably most apparent in 2009 when Eric Zamarripa was murdered.
An Echo Park Loco shot Zamarripa, a leader of the same gang, in front of his home on Baxter Street. Eastsider LA ran an interesting profile and the police held a public meeting to discuss his death. The public response portion of the meeting (also covered by Eastsider) was tense, with racial, anti-gentrification, and anti-gang undertones. Zamarripa was characterized as both a community leader and a creep. He was a family man who hosted big block parties at his home. He was also allegedly leading a gang responsible for violence and drug crimes in the neighborhood.
This old school gang takes its name from the antiquated slang for the riverside Elysian Valley section of Echo Park, where thousands of frogs used to croak from the banks of the river. In the early ‘90s Frogtown residents started referring to the neighborhood as Elysian Valley to avoid the damning association with the gang, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Today Frogtown’s gang name is losing its edge; residents are starting to call it Frogtown again and the Frogtown Artwalk gets about as much press as the gang these days.
BIG TOP LOCOS
The Big Top Locos were first mentioned in the Los Angeles Times in the late ‘80s and have been tied to some recent shootings. Little else is known about them. Big Top Locos was also the name of a music festival held in the summers of 1994 and 1995, featuring Rage Against the Machine lead singer Zach De La Rocha. The event was meant to support children affected by political revolution that occurred in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It’s unclear if the gang and the festival are or were related, but the name is pretty unique.
THE HEAD HUNTERS
Of the six gangs named in the injunction, The Head Hunters are best at staying under the radar. However the gang made news in 2008 when one member allegedly fired shots at a man he believed had called the police on the gang.
Unlike the other gangs on this list, The Crazys have a large gang history throughout the city of Los Angeles. Their Echo Park connection includes some initiation assaults on Sunset and Alvarado and a tagging war they waged against the Echo Park Locos in 2010.
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Feuer Says He Supports Echo Park Area Gang Injunction The city attorney discussed his priorities at Tuesdays GEPENC meeting. During the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council meeting Tuesday, City Attorney Mike Feuer shared some of his priorities for his upcoming term. He wants to revitalize the neighborhood prosecutor program. This is a program where members of the city attorney’s office work with members of the neighborhoods to identify problems where an intervention of the law could help. He also said he wants to work with the LAUSD to make pathways to schools safer crack down on gun violence and “be a leader in managing risk in the City.” During a short question and answer period, Feuer was asked his opinion on the gang injunction sought by his predecessor, Carmen Trutanich. The injunction creates a safe zone that covers approximately 3.8 miles and includes Echo Park, Elysian Valley and parts of Silver Lake. It covers six gangs and precludes them from congregating or otherwise associating in public areas. A court hearing for the injunction will be held on August 21, the Eastsider LA reported. Feuer said while he supports the gang injunction, he considers it an “important ingredient among many other ingredients. You’ll see me focused on prevention, intervention and suppression.” Feuer supports an avenue for gang members to get out of the gangs. That will give opportunities to former members who are actively working to get out by doing things like removing tattoos or getting job training. “It doesn’t mean looking the other way or being soft on people who do bad things but saying there is a carrot as well as a stick,” he said Most of his priorities will not be met without cooperation from the City Council. Over the last three years, Feuer said his staff was cut from 1,000 to 827 and he will need support from the City Council to gain additional personnel to supplement for things like the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program. “The budget was just enacted and it’s not a budget if you change it all the time, but I do need to have some flexibility,” Feuer said. “I had no responsibility for the budget I had and I hope people are receptive to some modest expansion.“ The injunction, which would apply to an approximately four-square mile area that includes Echo Park, Elysian Valley and portions of Silver Lake, was proposed in mid June by former City Attorney Carmen Trutanich during his final days in office. The injunction, if approved, would prohibit about 300 gang members from associating with each other in public, possessing firearms and narcotics as well as intimidating or harassing residents within a nearly four- square-mile “safety zone.” An August 21 court hearing has been scheduled for the injunction. The gang injunction had generated some opposition by residents who have raised the issue at recent gatherings. Feuer, who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, said