New Oakland gang injunction sought for Fruitvale neighborhood
on October 13, 2010
City officials announced Wednesday that an injunction is being sought against 42 alleged Norteño gang members in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, the second such action this year to fight the city’s gang problem.
A ruling on whether to permit the injunction is scheduled Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court. If approved, the injunction would allow police officers more rein in arresting the named gang members for engaging in activities—mostly illegal already—considered consistent with gang behavior.
“We’re going to try to use every tool in the tool box we can to bring down violence in our city,” Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said during a press conference announcing the injunction.
City attorney John Russo said the directive is a preventative measure intended to target violence before it happens. “It’s no help to the little girl with the bullet in her skull—it’s no help to her if the gang member is put in jail,” Russo said.
This year Oakland police have linked at least 35 shootings to Norteño activity.
All 42 gang members are named in the injunction filed in Alameda County Superior Court. None of them are minors and all have criminal histories, city officials said. Russo said their names will soon be listed on his office’s website: www.OaklandCityAttorney.org.
The injunction stipulates that the named gang members can be arrested for engaging in certain activities considered typical gang behavior within a designated “safety zone.” That zone is roughly two square miles bordered by 21st Avenue to the northwest, East 27th Street and Brookdale Avenue to the northeast, High Street and two blocks of 48th Avenue to the southeast, and 23rd and Alameda avenues to the southwest.
Many of the terms of the injunction restrict the gang members from committing acts that are already illegal. But the injunction allows police to “pick up someone who violates the injunction without going through the same level of cause,” Russo said.
Under the injunction, the gang members are prohibited from gang association, witness intimidation, carrying firearms, vandalizing property with graffiti, using or selling drugs, trespassing, loitering, gang recruitment, or preventing gang members from leaving the gang. The gang members are also required to adhere to a curfew, likely from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
In June, the city issued an injunction against 15 members of the North Side Oakland gang who were believed to be heavily involved in gang activities—including drug dealing—in North Oakland. Though not enough time has passed to determine statistically whether the injunction has helped reduce gang activity in the area, the feedback from police officers and some North Oakland residents has been positive, said Alex Katz, spokesman for the city attorney’s office.
“We’re hearing from the police and neighbors that for the 15 guys we named in the first injunction, there’s been a cooling off,” Katz said. “They’re not committing crimes in this neighborhood, they haven’t been arrested.”
The one exception among the North Oakland gangsters, Katz said, is Yancie Young, a known drug dealer who appealed the injunction in court and has been arrested since the injunction was filed. But the arrest and charges brought against Young were not related to the injunction, Katz said.
Public response to the latest injunction has mixed. Several Central Oakland residents—both those for and against the measure—attending the press conference declined to give their names, saying they feared for their safety.
The Stop the Injunction Coalition, a community activist group that says injunctions promote police violence and racial profiling against minorities, had a presence at the press conference to show its opposition to the city’s effort. “It continues a cycle of police violence. It continues a pattern of police profiling,” said Isaac Ontiveros, the coalition’s spokesman. “They should put the money and resources into education, healthcare, job—things that bring a community together rather than tear it apart.”
Ontiveros said gang injunctions have “never been effective” as a strategy throughout the state. “In this time of economic hardship, is this the best use of our resources?”
The coalition plans to hold an anti-injunction rally for noon Thursday at the Alameda County administration building.
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