PORT ARTHUR — Port Arthur may appear like an average American town during the day.
Run-of-the-mill buildings, pocked pavement, a shopping mall with chain outlet stores, mom-and-pop restaurants, and an industrial skyline make PA silimar to many other Southeast Texas communities.
However, drive by a carwash or run-down gas station, linger a little too long in any of the four cardinal directions, and visitors will notice something amiss.
A fully occupied car that doesn’t leave the lot for hours. Men who stand around talking on a street curb or walk the streets in excessively large numbers. Graffiti — territorial markings — that warns outsiders to stay away and residents to keep their mouths shut.
As much as we don’t want to acknowledge it, Port Arthur has a gang problem — one that Jefferson County District Attorney Cory Crenshaw and the Port Arthur Police Department seek to remedy.
“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods. Parents are scared to let their kids go outside to play,” Marcelo Molfino, PAPD Street Crimes Unit investigator, said.
This city-wide fear is precisely what Crenshaw aims to dissipate with his plan to file a civil injunction against one of Port Arthur’s prominent gangs — a plan which he presented to the Port Arthur Neighborhood Action Council, Thursday, in the Rob A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center. If his request is successful, it will be the first lawsuit of its kind in Jefferson County.
“In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan said, ‘Be tough on crime.’ Now, we want to be smart on crime. We want to reduce crime before it even starts,” Crenshaw said in a phone interview on Friday.
An injunction is a court order to do or to refrain from a certain action, or actions. An injunction against an organized entity, like a gang, would involve a litany of orders to stop engaging in the gang lifestyle.