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Twenty years ago, California cities pioneered the use of civil injunctions to stymie violent street gangs � and litigation over their use across the nation hasn’t let up since. Because of its perceived quick success, cities across the United States have imposed their own anti-gang measures to clamp down on the spread of violent gang activity � despite the legal challenges and the complexity of bringing such actions. A prime example is San Francisco’s “Oakdale Mob” injunction, issued in October 2006, which barred identified members of a gang calling itself the Oakdale Mob from congregating on just four square blocks of gang turf. “The results have been remarkable,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “In six months we have seen over a 70% reduction in service calls to the safety zone [covered by the injunction],” he said. In Wichita Falls, Texas, a turf war marked by drive-by shootings sparked efforts by city officials to seek a civil gang injunction last August against the Varrio Carnales, or V.C. gang. The court-approved civil injunction covered a 1.5-square-mile zone of gang turf with tough limits, including a 9 p.m. curfew and a ban on drinking in public, wearing of gang insignias, use of gang hand signs and congregating with gang members. “We have had 50 arrests for violations so far and two convictions,” according to Kinley Hegglund, a senior assistant city attorney. The first conviction resulted in a seven-month jail term and an $8,000 fine for one gang member. “There has been a decrease in crime of 13% in the zone,” Hegglund said. The city has created a gang task force and is now hiring an attorney to handle gang injunction efforts full time. “Gang members have to look over their shoulders now and the intimidation factor is down. Real estate prices in the zone have even gone up. It is a win-win for everyone,” Hegglund said. A national trend While California, with nearly 40 local injunctions, leads the country, other cities using them include Austin, Texas; San Antonio; Houston; Phoenix; Cicero, Ill.; Madison, Wis.; Beaver County, Pa.; and Fall River, Mass., according to a 2005 report on American gangs by Cheryl Maxson, a University of California, Irvine, criminology professor. As the numbers of injunctions have grown, so has the breadth of their terms and their geographic sweep. And this is causing concern among civil libertarians and defense lawyers that the new wave of anti-gang measures may go beyond what the California Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court originally contemplated in the 1990s. An injunction in Oxnard, Calif., for example, covers 6.6 square miles � nearly the entire city � and did not name a single individual gang member. Instead, it named only the Colonia Chiques gang. The injunction faces a challenge in the state appellate court. People v. Acosta, No. B184772, (Calif. 2d Ct. App.). More recent injunctions “are overbroad and not constitutional,” said Neil Quinn, an Ojai, Calif., solo practitioner and former public defender in Oxnard, who challenged that city’s injunction. “They curtail too many civil liberties without a hearing,” Quinn said. He said the lack of adequate definition of who is a gang member is a big problem. “To my mind it is like the 1950s when you could ruin someone’s career by calling them a Commie. Now if you call someone a gang member, people think they should have no civil rights. It is a slippery slope,” he said. The injunctions go after street gangs by staking out their turf as a “safety zone” and imposing curfews, bans on association among gang members and prohibitions on the wearing of certain gang-related clothes. The injunctions also outlaw making hand gestures that form gang signs, using drugs and drinking in public within the “safety zone.” The city identifies a gang as a public nuisance and seeks court approval to enjoin certain conduct within the gang territory, with the potential penalty for violations of civil or criminal contempt and six months in jail. Today there are more than 40 anti-gang injunctions in California, and cities in six other states have obtained them. Los Angeles alone has 33 injunctions covering 50 gangs, most imposed since 2001, according to the city attorney’s anti-gang program. Although few studies exist on the results of such injunctions, one report from the 1990s in Los Angeles found a 5% to 10% drop in violent crime in the safety zone, but no effect on property crime. Or crime may have moved to adjoining areas. In May, the Minnesota Legislature approved a measure to allow anti-gang injunctions in the state for the first time, promoted by state Representative John Lesch, a St. Paul Democrat who also works as an assistant city attorney when the state Legislature is not in session. St. Paul officials “saw this as an option being used in San Francisco and Austin, Texas, and it was a model we could borrow,” Lesch said. San Antonio, the first Texas city to use gang injunctions, has had seven, and they are considered a success in cutting crime not only in the safety zone but also in surrounding areas, according to Charles Rich, assistant district attorney for Bexar County and member of the anti-gang unit. The injunctions typically carry time limits of three or four years and restrict a wide variety of noncriminal conduct, such as possession of alcohol, beepers, cellphones or graffiti materials, including nails or paint. Despite the labor-intensive nature of bringing an injunction case and the stepped-up police enforcement it requires, officials consider it to be as cost-effective as pursuing individual gang members one by one in the justice system, Rich said. In 1997, the California Supreme Court rejected a constitutional free-assembly challenge to a gang injunction and allowed their use in People ex rel. Gallo v. Acuna, 929 P.2d 596 (Calif. 1997). Then in 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Chicago’s anti-congregation ordinance, which was aimed at gangs, violated due process and arbitrarily restricted personal liberty. Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999). But the ruling provided the guidance for more finely tuned injunctions. Despite those rulings, nearly every new injunction brings a new legal challenge. “Litigation is going to be a continuing part of this,” said Bruce Riordan, coordinator of the Los Angeles anti-gang program and a federal prosecutor for 15 years. In the Los Angeles cases, “the constitutional challenges have lost. We are in compliance with the law and we believe we will beat every one of the challenges,” Riordan said. Injunction thrown out In April, a state appeals court in Sacramento, Calif., threw out a gang injunction from nearby Yolo County because it provided insufficient notice to gang members. It was served on only one member of the Broderick Boys, a West Sacramento street gang, yet it applied to all 350 gang members. San Francisco is gearing up for an August trial that is likely to include a constitutional challenge to the first test of its anti-gang injunction by DeShawn Range, 26. Police arrested Range for talking to a friend with whom he was prohibited from associating in the safety zone. In Southern California, a state appeals court will rule in a few weeks on a challenge to Oxnard’s gang ordinance based on a claim that it failed to name a single gang member and covers 6.6 square miles, nearly the entire city. And in a separate case, the city of Lompoc’s injunction was narrowed in a recent legal attack. Lack of procedure Ann Brick, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco who worked on the Broderick Boys case, likened the injunctions to being placed on probation without being convicted of a crime. “Typically, there isn’t a procedure for determining in advance who is a member of a gang. The police make the determination as to what it means to be a gang member for purposes of the injunction. In the Sacramento case they had unfettered discretion to determine who was in the gang,” she said. Quinn said cities like Oxnard have tested a new legal theory that they can sue the gang itself without naming individuals, because the gang itself won’t answer in court and the city gets an injunction by default. “It is the police who decide who gang members are and arrest them,” he said. “In Oxnard we lost [at the trial court level] and it is being enforced against people police select.” But in Lompoc, he said, the judge “did not brush our concern aside.” He recognized if he issued such a broad injunction without having individuals in court it would be unconstitutional. Lompoc’s injunction was narrowed. Said Minnesota state Representative Lesch: “Cops know pretty much who the troublemakers are and can ID them on sight. If it can be established in front of a judge, [injunctions] should be used.” In addition, Quinn said some cities do not provide clear guidance for an individual on how to challenge inclusion on a gang list or how to get off the list upon leaving a gang. And, as a civil matter, indigent individuals are not entitled to a public defender, so they go to court with no lawyer. Signs of evolution Riordan, the Los Angeles prosecutor, agreed the injunctions have evolved. “The newer ones are based on the theory of naming the gang as an entity,” without naming individual gang members. But police, who keep gang member records, must work with his office to show who will be served with the injunction and why. “There should be a statement of reliable evidence as to why [someone is on the list],” Riordan said. He acknowledged that in the past getting off the gang list was a Catch-22. As part of a program launched in May, suspected gang members in Los Angeles will not have to go to court and publicly renounce the gang, a potentially dangerous act. They can make an informal presentation to a designated prosecutor, independent of Riordan’s gang program, that they were wrongly included or have left the gang. Riordan said the process of winning an injunction is not easy. “They are complicated and time consuming. It can take a year to 18 months to investigate, prepare and present an injunction in court, he said. He compared it to the complexity of federal racketeering cases. Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo has 19 lawyers in his anti-gang unit and has pushed most of the city’s gang injunctions, which now cover roughly 60 square miles. He recently announced a 13% drop in gang-related crime during the past five years. And use of injunctions can only be expected to grow. More than 2,300 cities reported active youth gangs five years ago in a National Youth Gang Survey. The FBI estimates there are nearly 22,000 gangs of all types with 732,000 gang members nationally, from street youth gangs and prison gangs to motorcycle gangs. Riordan said, “We want to make clear that the gang injunction is a limited tool within the safety zone. They are not a panacea. But they can stabilize a community so intervention can grow.”

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