Oakland seeks injunction against Norteño gang

October 13, 2010 7:03:09 PM PDT
There is a new strategy to deal with one of Oakland's most violent gangs. City officials are hoping an injunction will finally control the rampant crime and would cover a 450 square block area -- essentially the entire Fruitvale District.

There is controversy with this proposed injunction as the ACLU challenged it in court and called this Fruitvale injunction disappointing.

City officials say there are an estimated 400 Norteño members in Oakland and residents in this neighborhood have been caught in the middle of a war.

"The Norteños have been one of the most vicious, criminal and sociopathic criminal organizations in Oakland, not just for years, but literally for generations," Oakland City Attorney John Russo said.

Russo said the first gang injunction in North Oakland worked so well, the focus is now on the city's Fruitvale District.

It would bar 42 people identified by police as known gang members from hanging out anywhere within a sweeping 450 square blocks and there would be a curfew. Gang graffiti, gun possession and recruiting new members would also be illegal.

Police say the Norteños are responsible for 35 shootings this year alone and more than half of the crime in the heavily Latino Fruitvale. They rob immigrants and are linked to drugs sales and murder.

Recently, Oakland laid off 80 officers earlier this year. Oakland Police Department Anthony Batts says the injunction sends a strong message.

"Whether we're impacted by the layoffs of police officers or not, we as a city, we as a police department, will not back off," he said.

But opponents say police should back off. They say the injunction unfairly targets minority communities and that once someone is named in the injunction, it is difficult get off the list.

"A lot of those young people they're not necessarily involved in "gang activity." However, It will certainly impact them, these might be their brothers, their sisters," injunction opponent Tony Marks-Block said.

The Fruitvale District has been home for Matias Ramos for 20 years. Just last week, he heard gunshots outside when his neighbor was shot in the chest.

But with all the crime, he's not sure an injunction will do much to stop it.

"I wonder, I wonder if it is going to help. I have a doubt," he said.

While Batts and Russo both praised the success of the first gang injunction in north Oakland, initial crime stats for the neighborhood actually showed that violent crimes went up after the injunction took effect in June.

They say they're measuring success of these injunctions not just based on the crime statistics alone, but on other factors including what residents have to say.

They said that in North Oakland, residents now feel safer.


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