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BILL WOULD GIVE CITY ATTORNEYS CLEAR RIGHTS TO SEE GANG RECORDS A growing number of California cities, including San Francisco and San Jose, have launched controversial programs to curb gang activity through civil injunctions. But state law doesn’t always make it easy for civil attorneys to delve into crime-fighting issues. Freshman Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Anaheim, wants to change that. One of Solorio’s first pieces of legislation, AB 104, would force state and local law enforcement agencies to give city attorneys access to criminal history records so they can more easily pursue civil gang injunctions. The bill would clarify current law, which gives “prosecuting city attorneys” the right to look at rap sheets. But Solorio says there’s been some confusion over what that term means. “The term, although not defined anywhere in the code, we believe refers to city attorneys’ offices that prosecute criminal activities,” said San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Michael Weiss. Los Angeles has a dual civil-criminal city attorney’s office. San Francisco does not. That puts San Francisco attorneys at a disadvantage when it comes to building a case against criminal gangs. To secure an injunction, an attorney must convince a judge that gang members’ activities, such as shootings, vandalism or loitering, are a nuisance to a neighborhood. Without access to rap sheets, attorneys have to rely on public reports, police statements and witnesses who are often reluctant to talk publicly about feared gang members. The Penal Code makes it a misdemeanor to improperly share or obtain police reports. “None of us want to put ourselves in jeopardy,” Weiss said. So the San Francisco city attorney’s office asked Solorio to carry a bill to clarify city lawyers’ rights to rap sheets when they are seeking civil gang injunctions. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the bill offers “a minor change” that “will make a major difference in the fight against gang violence and drug trafficking.” In October, Herrera cited public nuisance laws in obtaining a temporary restraining order against 22 alleged members of the Oakdale Mob, a gang that authorities have linked to violence and drug sales in a four-block area in Bayview-Hunter’s Point. The order barred the named individuals from hanging out together in that area and from engaging in other illegal activities. The office secured the order with the help of records kept by a police officer familiar with the gang, but not arrest records, Weiss said. The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the use of such civil injunctions for punishing people only “alleged” to be gang members and for curtailing typically non-criminal behavior like chatting with friends or hanging out in a public place.

Cheryl Miller

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