HOUSTON A Harris County Civil Court judge has given final approval to a plan that makes a nearly one square mile area of southwest Houston off limits to a group of known gang members.

The Brays Oaks Safety Zone is now a court-approved 0.734 square mile area around Eleanor Tinsley Elementary School where 16 specific gang members are now banned. The Office of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan argued that the gang members constitute a public nuisance to the citizens of the Brays Oak neighborhood, and that they have rendered the area a no man s land.

The county effectively sued members of the Crips, Bloods, and the Most Wanted gangs. One of the 16 defendants is the suspect charged with killing three people and wounding a local rap artist. An eyewitness to that crime expected to testify in court was killed at the Albury Food Mart just across the street from Eleanor Tinsley Elementary School and next door to Albury Head Start preschool.

This is to create a safety zone so that people in the neighborhood can feel more comfortable, and also give officers probable cause for stopping these gang members, said Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan.

The Brays Oaks Safety zone is modeled after a successful first attempt at the Haverstock Hills Apartment complex in northeast Houston in 2010. Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan also approved that order making it a crime for 47 known gang members to be in that 57-acre area.

Tuesday in Judge Smoots-Hogan s court, attorneys presented the extensive criminal records of the 16 gang members known to frequent the Brays Oaks area, including two convenience stores at the corner of Albury and West Bellfort. The convenience store owners are also cooperating, agreeing to new security measures, the posting of gang member s photographs, and more actively policing and reporting traffic at their stores.

If found guilty of violating the judge s order, the gang members can be sentenced to a year and jail and up to a $4,000 fine.

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