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Residents skeptical about gang injunctions

October 14, 2010 6:38:23 PM PDT
An Alameda County Superior Court judge aid he saw no reason to alter an injunction granted to the city of Oakland earlier this year against a street gang in the northern part of the city.

One day after the city of Oakland announced plans to seek a gang injunction in a second neighborhood, opponents held a loud protest to question whether the first one in North Oakland is really working.

There was a hearing in court to evaluate the status of the first one today and lawyers for the city told a judge it's working so well, they plan to add three more names to the list of gang members covered by the injunction. But outside the courthouse, community groups said evidence actually shows this injunction isn't working.

"Where does it stop? When will it stop? This type of thing is only a catalyst to antagonize our community," Oakland resident Jessie Reed said.

But instead of stopping, the city announced plans to move forward with a second injunction. The first one covered 100 blocks and targeted 19 members of the Northside Oakland Gang.

Now Oakland wants to bar Norteños from associating anywhere in the Fruitvale District. This injunction would cover a sweeping 450 square blocks and include 42 people police say are known gang members.

"This injunction is working and I think we need to give it more time to ensure indeed it is working," Oakland Police Department lawyer Rocio Fierro said.

The proof, city officials say, is that most of those listed in the injunction have not been re-arrested for crimes since it took effect. But opponents point out that in the months after the injunction, violent crime in north Oakland actually increased.

"We don't feel that there's been enough time or enough evidence gathered. We haven't seen any statistics or any evidence showing that it has been or hasn't' been effective," ACLU attorney Jory Steele said.

This protester likens the injunction to a concentration camp and modern day slavery. But while critics call it racial profiling, city officials call it good police work.

"Being in a gang in a free society is not a crime. Being part of an association of people is not a crime," Linda Evans from Legal Services for Prisoners with Children said.

"This is not profiling at all. This is holding people accountable for their individual behavior," Oakland City Attorney John Russo said.

City officials say another sign of success that this injunction is working is that so far, only one person accused of being a Northside Oakland gang member has asked to have his name removed from the injunction list.

But one of opponents' main complaints is that these injunctions make it too difficult for people to have their names removed from the list once police have labeled them a gang member.


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