City of Oakland petitions for gang injunction

A map of the 100 block

A map of the 100 block "Safety Zone" the gang injunction will affect. Image courtesy Oakland City Attorney's Office.

At a press conference Thursday at Oakland City Hall, City Attorney John Russo recounted the gruesome events connected to a recent murder attributed to North Oakland’s only street gang, the North Side Oakland gang. On May 16, 2009, after reportedly assassinating Berkeley resident Charles Davis, during their getaway attempt four gang members also allegedly caused a car accident that killed two innocent bystanders, Todd Perea and Floyd Ross. The incident, which resulted in the arrest of four accused gang members on three counts of murder, helped Russo frame his announcement of the Oakland’s most recent tool in the fight against violence: the filing of civil lawsuit for a gang injunction against 19 proven members of the NSO. “While horrific, the

The four men arrested in connection with the May 16th murders.

events of May 16 are only a part of the violence perpetrated against our community by this gang,” said Russo.

If successful, the injunction will limit the gang’s ability to congregate in large groups on the street in Oakland, set restrictions that make it more difficult for gang members to commit criminal acts, and also make it easier for the police to monitor gang activity.  “This will limit the gang’s ability to do what they do best: plan and execute crime,” said OPD Captain Anthony Toribio.

If granted, this will be the first gang injunction in Oakland. It will prohibit gang activities in designated “Safety Zones,” which include roughly 100 blocks of North Oakland between 1-580, Emeryville, Berkeley and Telegraph Avenue. It will also limit the presence of the gangs on the streets by setting a curfew for the 19 people named in the injunction between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am. If any of the 19 members of the gang are caught engaging in prohibited activities like associating with other gang members, selling drugs, or possessing firearms, they can be found in contempt of court and face six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

These brief jail sentences are effective in breaking up a gang’s ability to plan and execute illegal activities, said OPD Sgt. Bernard Ortiz. “It’s an amazing thing that it does work because it has such a low sentence,” he said. “It’s like a mosquito bite—it’s a nuisance.”

While the May 16th incident brought the actions of the gang to widespread public attention, the North Oakland community has long been aware of their presence. According to problem solving officer Pat Gerrans who works Beat 12X, the Temescal neighborhood, the NSO gang is responsible for the majority of crime through all of North Oakland and in specific areas such as the Golden Gate neighborhood.

The OPD believes that gang activity is related to an increase in violent crime in North Oakland. In 2007 there were three incidences of violent crime in North Oakland that were attributed to NSO members; in 2009, the OPD reported 18 violent crimes, including 7 murders. The NSO gang is known for drug sales and robberies as well, specifically in the “Golden Triangle” area, said Russo. “All the crimes in the area are connected to gang violence, but nobody will talk, they’re too scared,” said Don Link a 30-year North Oakland resident and chair of the Shattuck Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council.

OPD Chief Anthony Batts is familiar with the use of injunctions and believes that they are an effective tool in combating gang violence; during his time on the police force in Long Beach, California, injunctions were enforced in five areas during the mid ‘90s. While he said the injunction is not a cure-all, he called it a tool in “the fight to give the streets back to the good people of Oakland.”

The gang injunction, which the Oakland City Attorney’s office petitioned for this week, was modeled after similar injunctions used in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and was created after consulting experts in L.A. and the gang task force unit at the SFPD, said Russo. For example, gang members can elect to take part in an “opt-out” program that is based on one used in San Francisco. The program allows gang members to be removed from the injunction if they can show evidence that they have left the gang and are working to better their lives through education, mentorship programs or employment.

This is the first time the City of Oakland has gathered enough intelligence on gang membership and activity to pursue an injunction. According to Ortiz and Alex Katz, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s office, the City of Oakland has had difficulty in the past proving gang membership. In 1994, The District Attorney’s Office filed for a gang injunction against the B-Street gang, but was denied on the grounds of unconstitutionality. Then in 1997, the California Supreme Court ruled gang injunctions constitutional, opening the door for cities such as Los Angeles to petition for use. However, in order to avoid racial profiling and the targeting of individuals, the standards for proving the existence of a gang and gang members’ responsibility for crime are stringent.

In order for the City Attorney’s Office to petition for an injunction, the office needed airtight evidence of the NSO’s criminal activity, said the OPD’s Toribio. The injunction petition is based on more than a year and a half of work—including intel collected from criminal reports, inside sources, and conversations with community members—performed by more than 100 police officers, although most of the information collection was done by a group of young problem solving officers (PSOs) who patrol the North Oakland area. Officers Nadia Clark, John Cunnie, Pat Gerrans, and Jason Trode started their investigation in January of 2008, poring over thousands of pages of documents, collecting information, talking to community policing organizations—often during their personal hours without overtime, said Clark. “It was a lot of work,” said Clark, “We had 1,000 pages of evidence to review on top of other PSO duties.”

Local community watch groups “actually deserve some of the credit. It was their talking about the crime that they were seeing that helped point us in the right direction,” said Ortiz. “ Sometimes they think we don’t listen, but we did listen. And they helped.”

All of this information was integral in providing the existence of a gang in order to file for the injunction, said Toribio. “We had a perfect storm of evidence,” he said, “proof of existence, location and community nuisance.”

“Oakland gangs have never been identified like this,” agreed Ortiz.

The gang, though divided into smaller groups by territory, which include the Gaskill Maniacs, the Bushrod Cold Gunnaz 59, 600 The 6, 6100, and ASAP/FT, is a unified force of over 40 members. Currently, 19 members are listed on the injunction request, but more names can be added if an individual meets certain criteria: if police officers or community residents identify someone as a gang member, if there is evidence of past criminal activity, or if the person self-identifies as a gang member. The OPD has also gathered physical descriptions that aid in the identification of members: tattoos, red or blue baseball caps, and certain graffiti and clothing emblazoned with the gang’s name or symbols. A combination of these elements can potentially provide evidence of

An example of a tattoo characteristic of the North Side Oakland gang.

membership, but adding new names to the injunction will take the same due process and meticulous proof that was necessary for the first 19, said Toribio. “This is not capricious, this is not arbitrary. We’ve done our homework,” he said.

Toribio said that North Oakland’s problem solving officers are blazing a trail for other officers throughout Oakland; he believes that the small 100-block North Oakland experiment will ultimately spread to other areas of Oakland. He said officers are already working to provide similar documentation on West Oakland gangs to file a gang injunction in that area by spring.

“We are convinced this will be effective in fighting gangs and ending a climate of fear and terror,”  he said.
Additional reporting by Anna Bloom. All photos courtesy of the Oakland City Attorney’s office.


15 Comments

  1. Not a single attempt at providing a countervailing opinion to this proposed injunction, and you had three extra days to report the story out? Not balanced reporting.

    Also, no questions about why Northside Oakland. Does it have to do with gentrification? The majority of murders in Oakland happen on the Eastside, where Nortenos and Surenos operate, in addition to other sets that could easily be identified with the safe attention and focus. Perhaps it’s down to the attentions of OPD’s Area 1, perhaps it’s down to the fact that this neighborhood has a lot of young professionals and families with money moving in, and OPD wants to make sure that the development that is stretching its way down from Telegraph to MLK and Market continues apace.

    And one last thing – this injunction, if it goes through, will look like racial profiling writ-large across all of North Oakland, giving the police the excuse to stop and question young black and latino men for even speaking with people named on that injunction, or being related to them. The term “gang associate” is extremely loose. Please do more research on topics like this before putting together the final version, there is a whole different side to this story.

    • DV

      Great post. Excellent points. There is a serious problem with the editorial slant of this entire website. This is an example of that.

  2. Bravo

    Yeah, damn straight this injunction is a good idea. It’s a no-brainer that the gang members are causing harm to the community. Notice that this action affects 19 individuals, not just all young black males (I didn’t see any latino faces in those mug shots; North Oakland is not East Oakland). So, no, it does not lead to racial profiling.

    Making our community safer for everyone, and making it less of a ghetto, is a good thing.

    And frankly, if everybody got harassed by the police who spent their time (wasted their time) hanging out on corners in front of liquor stores looking mean to anybody who passed by… that would also be good for the neighborhood. But, that is specifically NOT what is going on here.

  3. neighbor

    Man its funny how police seem scared to go anywhere else in Oakland, majority of the murders in Oakland happen in East and West Oakland because people from North Oakland leave to do business, if u want to crack down on gang violence u need to start outside of North Oakland because “Ice City” criminals are to smart to be caught this easy, and these are just facts from growing up in Oakland

  4. Home Owner in South Berkeley

    I agree with Bravo. If you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, then you don’t have anything to worry about. I’m happy that the PD is doing what they can to get that garbage off the streets. Those 19 individuals are only a disease to our community. Where are the parents of these individuals? They need to be held accountable too. Our next step is to remove the liquor stores and billboards and replace them with viable businesses and organic groceries.

    • DV

      If you had grown up in this neighborhood, you’d know better than to say that only criminals suffer from police crackdowns, homeowner.

  5. Sushi

    Yeah, why are we starting gang injunctions in north Oakland as opposed to east or west Oakland?

  6. Northoaklandneighbor

    Great idea start off in north, then west and finish off the big daddy of em all east Oakland. Liquor stores are not the problem u south Berkeley buffoon! Maybe if u get to know the people who run them they actually are a big part of our community. Shame on u for blaming people who are working hard just like all of us.

  7. Home Owner in South Berkeley

    How is owning a liquor store ‘working hard like the rest of us?’ Selling lottery tickets, forties and cigarettes is pertetuating a rotten culture. I don’t see any of those stores on College Ave! And I have gone in to the 6 liquor stores that are in a half mile radius of our house and sure the people are nice, but their groceries are gross and outdated. Let’s be real, no one is buying groceries from these spots. Why can’t they work hard to sell products that are worth buying? And, liquor stores ARE a huge problem with this community.

  8. 55th Street Resident

    Deep heartfelt thanks to those police officers assigned to our area who put in their extra time and intelligence to gather evidence and deal with the problem. I’m sick of having teenagers die within a half block of my house, and hearing assault rifles go off outside my garage. No Valle, you obviously don’t live where I live, and haven’t experienced it. It’s totally ridiculous that you would knock the officers for making the area safer.

  9. No Valle

    55th Street:

    I live not far from where you live, and I’ve lived in a number of cities in CA and other states where gang injunctions are in effect. They are VERY arbitrary tools that until recently were considered unconstitutional.

    Also, have you asked yourself why North Oakland is being targeted for this? Have you spoken with folks down East about what their neighborhood is like, and what sort of police resources are allocated to their neighborhoods?

    There are reasons for this beyond street violence – if Oakland was to implement an injunction based on those standards, it would be in the Deep East hands down.

  10. ninety

    It is obscene to play the race card when the people and their families who are the victims of this ongoing violence are mostly Black. Racism would be the opposite of what the police are doing here. Racism would be ignoring the problem and writing the whole thing off because it’s mainly Blacks being harmed.

    The value of black owned houses that have been in families for generations is being destroyed by the presence of these repellent criminals next door and near. They are detested by the overwhelming number of the mothers and fathers who see their children being intimidated and tempted by these out of control louts. Legitimate ordinary people, no matter their race, heartily endorse making our neighborhoods as uncomfortable as possible for them.

  11. Mama to 2

    I’ve noticed that most of the people against this injunction are white. Read this interview done by Youth Radio:
    http://www.youthradio.org/news/oaklands-gang-injunction-not-supported-by-local-residents

    I want to say to those of you who oppose this injuction, what is your better solution? What will make our children safe tonight when bullets are flying???!! I support the long term solutions to address the root causes, but what about tonight?? I work at a high school in Oakland, I know these youngsta’s, and I know how much they don’t give a damn if their bullets hit something other than their intended target. I know how much being part of a gang gives them a sense of purpose, family, pride. And these are the real problems that need to be addressed, but that will take years. We, the families of North Oakland, need the violence to be address tonight so that another innocent person won’t get killed.
    As a family of color who are raising young black men, we know the dangers of the police. We know what harrassment is, it happens whether there is an injuction or not. We also fear the bullets of the police… We need to find a better solution. We need to have the police work for us, the long time families of north oakland, to help make it safe for our children to ride a bike around the block! I don’t think the injuction will work in the long run, but having police presence tonight will hopefully stop shooting tonight. These idealistic do-gooder white activists are doing our families a disservice by talking dow the efforts of the police to curb the violence in our neighborhood. Why NOrth Oakalnd????!! Why NOT!!! I live here, my children live here, my neighbors children live here, so and so’s granny lives here!!!! Get off your soap box and join reality, the violence is out of hand!!

  12. 62nd Street Resident

    Me personaly I agree with no valle. Yes, there are alot of young professionals moving in with families. Truth be told they want alot of african american people out of Oakland period, yes they are some that are gangs, but not all african americans who live in North Oakland are involed with gangs. This is a way for the police target anybody the assume is in a gang in North Oakland. Yes, I also argee that it is getting out of control but honestly the police need to do there job and find the real people behind the crime, and not just messing with anyone they think maybe is in a gang

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