Controversy further stoked as Oakland considers new injunctions
on October 12, 2011
Despite the controversial nature of gang injunctions, the City of Oakland is considering implementing additional injunctions throughout the city. This comes on the heels of a report released by the City Attorney’s office documenting the results of the first injunction that was issued in the North Oakland Area in June 2010.
Gang injunctions restrict gang members from participating in activities considered to foster criminal activity by imposing curfews and preventing identified members from associating with one another. Gang injunctions have been a very controversial issue in Oakland. Residents have expressed concerns that the injunctions target specific individuals and racial groups and do not address the city’s broader crime problems.
Currently, the city of Oakland has two gang injunctions in place. The first one was filed in May 2010 against 15 members of the North Side Oakland Gang and another was filed in October against 40 members of the Nortenos gang in the Fruitvale area.
At last week’s council meeting, the council considered a proposal that would amend a policy they adopted in May that prevents the implementation of further gang injunctions until the city conducts an effectiveness study. Outside of Oakland City Hall and the council chambers, crowds gathered to show either support or opposition for injunctions, while more than 400 community members signed up to speak during the public comments session on crime-related matters, including the proposed teen curfew.
“These are really a bad tool,” said Oakland resident Rachel Herzing, a member of the Stop the Injunctions Coalition, as she stood outside of the council meeting. “To expand them flies against what we were told at first. Someone outside of the system needs to analyze the data. There hasn’t been a comprehensive review.”
Bill Canada, a Richmond resident who addressed the council at the meeting, said, “It starts off targeting specific groups. They try to make it sound general but it’s targeting young African American and Latino men. Look at the areas it’s being initiated in.”
But others, like Oakland resident Pat Ruelas, said that they support gang injunctions and other safety measures. “I don’t care what it takes,” Ruelas said. “Drastic times call for drastic measures.”
After hearing from a third of the speakers, the council postponed discussion of the matter to a future Public Safety Committee meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for October 25 at 5:30pm, according to the City Clerk’s calendar,
While officials consider implementing new injunctions, the City Attorney’s office recently filed a report showing the reduction of criminal activity by those named in the North Oakland injunction. On September 22, the City Attorney’s Office released a Review Hearing Joint Status Report on the North Side Oakland gang injunction to the Alameda County Superior Court. While the report does not conclude that the injunction has ended criminal activity in the area the injunction calls the “North Oakland Safety Zone,” it calls the recent crime statistics in the area “favorable.”
Prior to its implementation, the report states, 15 of the people named in the gang injunctions had a total of “67 arrests and 57 convictions among them” and their convictions were for “armed robbery, carjacking, drug sales, carrying guns, reckless flight form the police, vandalism, domestic battery,” and more.
Since the implementation of the North Oakland injunction, the report concludes, only one defendant has been arrested, which was for violating a probation stay-away order in August 2010. Since the last status report in February 2011, “no defendants have been arrested in the Safety Zone or within City limits,” the report states.
The city originally named 19 members in the injunction, but four were arrested for their reported involvement in a triple homicide, so the injunction focused on the remaining 15 people. Of those, two were never served with the injunction, one because he has not been located.
“The North Side Oakland gang injunction appears to have disrupted criminal activity of enjoined defendants in the Safety Zone,” the report concludes.
With the recent resignation of Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts, who was a proponent of using gang injunctions, the implementation of additional gang injunctions will remain a heated issue at council meetings, where support for them is divided.
Councilwoman Desley Brooks (District 6) said she objects to the city implementing more injunctions without a study. “We’ve spent almost $1 million on 15 people,” said Brooks. “We don’t have that kind of money.”
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