Weakened by a 2009 court-ordered injunction and prison terms for several members, a Glendale-based gang has been actively recruiting teens in an attempt to rebuild and reassert its presence, police officials say.
The directives to find new, younger recruits have come from incarcerated members of the gang, Glendale police detectives said.
“County jail and prison inmates have a lot of influence of what happens on the streets,” Det. Jeffrey Davis said.
For gang leaders, teens are ideal members because, he said, they are easily persuaded, usually don’t have criminal records and, if arrested and convicted, typically serve short sentences.
Police say the younger recruits have also been advised to avoid looking like typical gang members, to ditch the shaved head, oversized, color-coded clothes and knee-high socks.
Detectives are already seeing the newer generation of gang members at Chevy Chase Park, a known hangout for the violent criminal street gang, Davis said.
One of the newer gang members — a 17-year-old student at Marshall High School in Los Feliz — was recently seen riding a bicycle in regular clothes at the park and carrying a Colt handgun, Davis said. The teen discarded the gun when he saw Davis and another detective.
With the gang reemerging, graffiti and theft incidents have increased in the past month, police said.
During the Halloween weekend, Glendale police arrested 10 reputed gang members and their associates from five different gangs for various offenses, including graffiti, Davis said.
A week prior, police also arrested two reputed West Burbank gang members who allegedly assaulted a Glendale resident with no gang ties on Victory Boulevard and later stole his car. That the Burbank and Glendale gangs have been rivals since the 1980s has only added to police concerns.
The tensions have sparked a series of violent retributions that have snared innocent bystanders.
Two reputed West Burbank gang members engaged in a brawl with an unidentified teen after school at Daily High School in Glendale, Davis said.
A Glendale gang member was stabbed in the hand by the same Burbank gang members last week at about 9 p.m. at Pacific Park.
“They were just looking for somebody,” Davis said.
The stabbing victim, 20-year-old Michael Herrera, later allegedly stabbed another man, who didn’t have gang ties, at a party early Sunday in the neighborhood of San Fernando Road and Electronics Place, Los Angeles police officials said.
Herrera has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon for the benefit of a criminal street gang, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.
Los Angeles police have also noticed an increase in graffiti from West Burbank gang members in an area that their Glendale rivals claim as their territory, prompting concerns at the L.A.P.D. Northeast Division, said Lt. Steven Flores.
“Tagging leads to increased violence,” he said.
Despite the recent flare-ups, Flores pointed out that police have seen gang activity around the Glendale and Los Angeles border drop significantly since both cities united to obtain the gang injunction.
The injunction allows police to arrest gang members who were found to be selling or possessing drugs, weapons and graffiti tools, using lookouts, trespassing, loitering or intimidating people who live and work within the designated zone — a 4.5-square-mile area that includes much of south Glendale into Los Angeles. A 1.25-square-mile area of Tujunga just north of Foothill Boulevard also falls under the injunction.
West Glendale Commander Lt. Bruce Fox said he plans to tackle gang activity through more patrols, contacting reputed gang members and asserting a police presence in the area.
Fox and his community officers will host a town hall meeting to talk to residents about recent crime spikes and gang movement in the area.
“We’ve got to increase [police] presence in the neighborhood,” he said.