Frustrated by rising gang violence at two South Los Angeles residential complexes, the city of Los Angeles has filed lawsuits to force the property owners to take steps to deter criminal behavior.
City Atty. Mike Feuer has filed a pair of nuisance abatement lawsuits against the owners of a 36-unit apartment complex that allegedly is the bastion of the Be Bop Bloods, and the owners of a home with attached units that has been the Family Swan Bloods’ stronghold for nearly three decades.
Rivalry between the two gangs has played out for years.
Near 93rd Street and Central Avenue, the Be Bop Bloods’ turf has been the scene of drug trafficking, dozens of arrests and eight shootings, including a Sept. 4 shooting that left one dead, city officials said. The building is owned by Main-South Central Associates.
The Family Swan Bloods’ refuge about four blocks away on East 90th Street has seen at least five drive-by shootings and one stabbing since 2011, officials said.
“For too long, the residents of these South Los Angeles neighborhoods have lived in a war zone,” Feuer said in a statement. “Our lawsuits aim to shut down these gang strongholds and stop the bullets from flying.”
The suits ask for remedies including video monitoring, security guards, enhanced lighting, an injunction barring gang activity and even the closure of the property for as long as a year while the alleged nuisances are brought to an end.
The current owner of the East 90th Street location, Analia Bortolo, said that when she purchased the property in late August, she was not informed of any problems. She said she was working to improve the neighborhood and “change the situation” at her property.
The former owners, who are also defendants in the lawsuit, Roslin Childers-Green and Lawrence Green, had owned the property from 1994 until August, according to the complaint. Neither could be reached for comment.
City prosecutors say the home has long been a hotbed for the Family Swan Bloods. Nine guns have been found around the property since 2011 and six people have been arrested on suspicion of unlawful gun possession, according to the suit.
Showing the “deeply rooted” presence of that gang, graffiti such as the initials “FSB” is spray-painted about the property, says the suit, which includes photographs of the graffiti.
In recent months, violence there has intensified, according to the suit. On Sept. 22, four men in a car drove up and opened fire at another car with three women inside. Two days later, police served a search warrant when they saw a man tossing a rifle from a back window. Inside, police recovered multiple guns.
At the larger housing complex along Central Avenue, city prosecutors alleged, the Be Bop Bloods have control and maintain a constant presence: milling in the courtyard, drinking, smoking marijuana and peddling rock cocaine. Graffiti near entrances and on tree trunks serves to broadcast the gang’s garrison, the suit says.
Alleged gang members store guns around the property for “quick and easy access,” and sometimes, weapons are accessible to passersby, according to the suit. A state correctional officer once found a loaded semiautomatic pistol on the pavement outside the complex, the suit said.
Police have made about 30 arrests on charges of gun possession and narcotics since 2011 and 17 guns have been taken from the site, according to the suit.
On Sept. 4, a 27-year-old man was fatally shot outside the property. Area residents often find shell casings on the ground or see bullet holes riddling their cars, the suit says.
Representatives for the firm that owns the property could not be reached for comment.
City prosecutors have long resorted to legal action to stymie gang activity, arguing that nuisance properties are magnets for crime and jeopardize the safety of people in nearby schools, churches and businesses.
In 2009, the city filed a suit aimed at a Pico-Union apartment complex that was allegedly the center of the Mara Salvatrucha gang empire. The owner of a Venice apartment building was named in a 2007 suit, with prosecutors saying the building housed the Shoreline Crips.
During the last two years, Feuer’s office has obtained 53 injunctions to mandate physical and operational improvements at properties that are deemed nuisances. Five sites that are the locus of drug- and gang-related activity have also been shut down, according to Feuer’s office.