Lawsuit targets Toonerville gang

GLENDALE — City attorneys for Los Angeles and Glendale on Monday announced their intent to seek a permanent injunction restricting the activities of the long-entrenched Toonerville gang, whose members have been convicted for multiple murders and shootings in both jurisdictions.

In a civil lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, city attorneys argued that dozens of known Toonerville gang members continue to cause a public nuisance, and so should be strictly regulated.

If approved by the judge, the joint gang injunction — a first for Glendale — would create a 4.5-square-mile “safety zone” in the southern part of the city to be bordered by the Los Angeles River, Broadway, the Glendale (2) Freeway and Verdugo Road, and down past Glendale Boulevard into Los Angeles.

The Americana at Brand would be included in the safe zone, which covers nearly all of south Glendale.

A second 1.25-square-mile safety zone would also be created in the Sunland-Tujunga area north of Foothill Boulevard.

Toonerville gang members within those safe zones would be prohibited from associating with one another in public, employing lookouts or being even indirectly involved with graffiti or drug- and weapons-related crime.

They would also be barred from Chevy Chase and Palmer parks, and be placed under a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily curfew with few exceptions. Those found to be in violation of the order would be subject to immediate arrest and prosecution, officials said.

The latest proposed injunction would be the 39th imposed in the Los Angeles area as authorities fight to suppress gang activity from one neighborhood to the next.

“The reality is, gangs know no geographic boundaries,” Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams said.

Gangs have been responsible for several drive-by shootings, narcotics sales, stabbings and violent assaults in Glendale. In May, an 18-year-old man was shot several times in the torso less than a block away from Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in what police believe was a gang-related shooting.

The “shot-caller” for the Drew Street gang, which has strong ties to the Mexican Mafia, was arrested in June at his Glendale home as part of a multi-agency crackdown that led to the arrest of 55 alleged gang members known for violent carjackings.

Even after Toonerville gang leader Timothy Joseph McGhee was convicted last year of three murders and four attempted murders, including a July 2004 ambush of two LAPD officers, authorities said gang activity has been unrelenting.

“As time has wore on, they’ve gotten more violent,” Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

Glendale and Los Angeles officials Monday said the preliminary three-year injunction, if approved, would be an essential crime-fighting tool against a gang that has claimed large swaths of their cities for decades.

“This is partnership by design,” Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said.

Under his term, the number of injunctions has increased throughout Los Angeles from eight to 38, covering 63 gangs and more than 70 square miles. In that time since 2001, murder rates have dropped and, according to the LAPD, gang membership has declined 33%.

“One thing that we know is that gang injunctions work,” Delgadillo said.

To that end, Glendale City Atty. Scott Howard said the injunction was being sought for more than just taking back a neighborhood.

“We think it’s ensuring that the quality of life is returned and maintained,” he said.

In response to critics who have argued the injunctions are overly broad and retroactively punitive to inactive gang members, the proposed injunction would come with an “opt-out” petition for those served with the order.

The petition allows inactive gang members to prove they are no longer a threat, and so should be removed from the injunction.

Police officers started to notice Glendale residents listed in the lawsuit Friday and continue to track others, Glendale Senior Assistant City Atty. Carmen Merino said.

If the three-year injunction is approved, city attorneys would move immediately to have it made permanent, Delgadillo said.

Officials in both cities cited the “enormous” amount of work that went into compiling the criminal histories of dozens of known Toonerville gang members in order to lay the groundwork for the injunction, but said they would not hesitate to place other gangs in the same vise grip as the need arose.

That could put three other established Glendale gangs in jeopardy of similar injunctions.

With Los Angeles taking the lead in pursuing the Toonerville gang, Glendale officials said they joined the effort to head off any “displacement” effect of pushing the problem from Atwater Village north into their own city.

Still, Adams said, “we’re not reserved about going after injunctions for any and all groups that are engaged in criminal activity in our city.”

A court hearing on the proposed gang injunction is scheduled for Thursday.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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