Harris County launches anti-gang initiative

November 10, 2010 2:21:37 PM PST
There's a new crackdown on gangs at one of the most dangerous apartment complexes in Harris County.

Eyewitness News gave you some insight into what's going on at the Haverstock Hill apartments in northeast Houston back in October. Last year alone, cops responded to more than 3,000 calls there. And when you hear that some 700 children live at the complex, you can understand the urgency.

Harris County filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, essentially asking the courts to ban certain members of two gangs from the area. People at the complex say they are happy about the lawsuit. They say gangs have made them prisoners in their own homes for years.

For the 2,000 people who live at the Haverstock Hill Apartments, gang activity has become an accepted reality of everyday life.

"Kids can't come outside and play," resident Kashanda Hurd said. "I'm scared for mine to come outside and play."

Shootings, assaults, robberies and even kidnappings are nothing out of the ordinary there. There were 3,000 calls for service to this area in one year. Police have to protect the 700 children who live there as they go to and from school, and Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos said enough is enough.

"The gangs were swarming its perimeters. The children were exposed to this day in and day out. The elementary school kids were flashing gang signs and wearing gang colors," Lykos said.

She slapped 33 people identified as members of the Bloods and Crips gangs with a civil lawsuit banning them from the premises, based on a lengthy track record of being a nuisance to neighbors. The safety zone covers the complex and 11 nearby businesses.

"We're hoping that some of these folks will decide that perhaps the gang life is not for them and take a path to a virtuous life," Lykos said.

Part of her plan is to put a storefront on the premises making it easier for police to make arrests. If the courts agree and grant the temporary injunction, it could start in December.

From there, the county will take the case to trial, where its lawyers are confident they will win back the safety of citizens who are fed up with the gangs.

"Fighting and shooting, just everything -- the drugs -- everything," Hurd said.

The county plans to defeat potential civil rights challenges it might face.

In addition, a coalition of law enforcement, community leaders and prosecutors will hopefully replace the criminal activity with community activities and services.

"I'm sure the office and everybody is opened for suggestions to how to make this work and get the bad guys out and let the good guys prevail," said resident Marcia Freeman.


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