Continuing its effort to crack down on gang activity in the city, the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney has filed a lawsuit against the owner and residents of an apartment building in the Oakwood neighborhood of Venice that is allegedly a base of operation for the Venice Shoreline Crips gang.
The Safe Neighborhoods Division of the city attorney’s office filed a narcotics and public nuisance abatement lawsuit in mid-July against a triplex in the 600 block of San Juan Avenue in Venice, as part of a campaign to shut down properties officials allege are connected to gang and drug activity.
The lawsuit names property owner Irvin Campbell and five former or current residents whom the Los Angeles Police Department accuses of being members of the Shoreline Crips, city attorney officials said.
Deputy city attorney Chuck Sewell said the lawsuit seeks the closure of the property for one year and a court order barring the defendants from coming within 1,000 feet of the triplex. City attorneys are also seeking to prevent the property owner from renting the units out to other alleged gang members in the future, Sewell said.
The San Juan Avenue property has been a “safe house” for the Shoreline Crips and one of their bases of operation for narcotics sales, Sewell alleged.
The Los Angeles Police Department reported that 29 narcotics arrests were made at the property or through incidents directly related to the property between December 2001 and July this year, Sewell said.
“There has been a lot of activity directly related to the property or to the people who live there,” he said.
The deputy city attorney claimed that the presence of the property has caused some concern for residents in the neighborhood over the years.
“It has been a neighborhood problem for quite some time,” Sewell said. “There are a lot of people in the community who have been really frightened by it.”
The city attorney’s office obtained a permanent injunction against the Shoreline Crips in October 2000 establishing a safety zone bounded by Venice Boulevard, Rose Avenue, Pacific Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard. The injunction prohibits the gang from associating in public and conducting criminal activity.
In addition to the lawsuit against the San Juan Avenue property, the city attorney’s office filed abatement lawsuits against two other properties allegedly used by the Crips in June 2004 and March 2005, Sewell said.
The lawsuits are part of the city attorney’s Taking Out Urban Gang Headquarters (TOUGH) project, which aims to crack down on properties allegedly tied to gang activity.
Sewell called the TOUGH project “very effective,” saying it has led to nearly 70 investigations.
“Wherever we’ve focused it so far we’ve had great results,” Sewell said.
But Venice Neighborhood Council member Stan Muhammad said the project appears to target only property owners and not businesses that may also have gang activity occurring on their property.
“I don’t think it’s right,” said Muhammad, co-founder of Venice 2000, a community outreach group that works to prevent youths from joining gangs. “If they’re going to crack down, they need to really crack down.
“If this is going to be done, they need to enforce it across the board.”
Muhammad added that gang problems should not be blamed on the properties or residences that are allegedly connected to gang and criminal activity.
“How can you blame a residence for the problem?” Muhammad asked.
There need to be more resources in the community for youths to help keep them from joining gangs, he said.
“The root of the problem is the lack of resources that are coming in to the area,” Muhammad said.