Court order bans gang activity at apt.

February 7, 2011 4:31:44 PM PST
More than two dozen suspected gang members are now banned from a northeast Harris County apartment complex, the result of an unusual gang crackdown aimed at making one area of town safer. Prosecutors targeted the Haverstock Hill apartment complex on Aldine Bender and Highway 59. Most of the time when we talk about crackdowns on gang violence, we think of law enforcement going into a specific area. But this time, it's prosecutors who went inside a courtroom nowhere near the apartment complex. They say it will make a bigger difference than anyone expects.

At the Haverstock Hills apartment complex, gang violence is so common it has families developing survival skills.

Neighbor Olivia Howard said, "It's just bad. You can't walk through here at night. I come in the day time to see my sister-in-law, drop my daughter off. I come back in the day time to pick them up because it's just terrible."

But Monday morning inside a civil courtroom, there was a major leap in efforts to curb the violence at the apartment complex. A judge granted a permanent injunction, barring 46 known gang members from ever setting foot in the complex. This first-of-its-kind trial in Harris County was handled by special prosecutor Kim Ogg.

She explained, "This works just like a domestic protective order. Any of them who are caught in the Haverstock Hills safety zone, physically present, can be arrested on sight."

Four of the gang members actually agreed to the injunction, and even signed court documents.

Residents of the complex say they are used to seeing crime tape and hearing gunshots, but recently, they've noticed efforts to get gang members out. "They had some pictures on the gate of different guys that were to be stopped from coming in the gate," said apartment resident Shaneekqua Williams.

Everyone involved admits it will take time to see if the injunction will truly make a difference and lower the crime rate. But neighbors say they're just excited that efforts are being made.

"That's a good thing to me," said Howard. "Yes, that's a good thing. That's a good thing. They need to clean it up around here again."

This permanent injunction comes in the wake of a temporary injunction and months of work prior to this date. If this becomes successful, a lot of people expect more injunctions and lawsuits like this in the future.