The Los Angeles city attorney is moving forward with plans to establish a gang injunction in Echo Park despite opposition from some neighborhood organizations and residents.
The injunction, which is expected to get a judge’s approval in October, would restrict more than 300 alleged gang members from associating in public, intimidating residents, possessing firearms and participating in other gang-related activities within a 3.8 square mile area that includes Echo Park and parts of Silver Lake. Crimes such as vandalism and theft could carry extra penalties.L.A. enforces 45 gang injunctions throughout the city, including several near Echo Park. Police have used injunctions to fight crime since the ‘80s, often with the support of local residents in those areas.
In Echo Park, however, some say the injunction is harsh and unfair, especially to former gang members named on the injunction list. With the neighborhood’s rising property values and trendy nightlife, they view the injunction as a tool to boost gentrification rather than ensure safety.
“I hope it fails,” said Alex Malansky, manager of Stories and Books Café. The eclectic bookshop opened five years ago on Sunset Boulevard, roughly at the center of the injunction zone.
To Malansky, the injunction is a “rude and transparent” way to expedite Echo Park’s gentrification, especially since crime levels have plummeted since the ‘90s.
Just a block away, Rafael Lopez has parked his shoe repair van on the same block nearly every day for the past four years. To him, the neighborhood feels safe.
“It’s not like it was before…the gangs are disappearing,” he said in Spanish. Most residents just want to work and make a living, Lopez said, and gang activity, though dangerous, doesn’t affect daily life.
Members of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council almost unanimously denounced the injunction last August. Community organizations such as The Youth Justice Coalition and El Centro del Pueblo have objected to it as well.
One organization, Standing Together Advocating for our Youth, or STAY, was created in July to campaign for gang-intervention programs.
The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, meanwhile, voted in September to approve the injunction. But the margin was slim — nine out of 17 votes.
Click play for scenes from a recent Echo Park afternoon, including a brief interview in Spanish with Rafael Lopez.
Article submitted for professor Jack Leonard’s “Text” class at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, fall 2013. Video submitted for professor Dave Lafontaine’s “Digital” class.