Oakland grapples over curfews, gang injunctions

October 5, 2011 1:30:53 AM PDT
The city of Oakland is looking for ways to stop the violence, so the city council considered several measures Tuesday night, including curfews and expanding its gang injunctions. However, they faced lots of opposition to those ideas.

The crime-fighting proposals have really struck an emotional chord in the East Bay. There were a few heated outbursts inside the council chambers and some people were in each other's faces over this issue. What we're seeing are those who sick of being victims of crime, versus those who are sick of being harassed by the police.

More than 200 people swarmed Oakland City Hall to speak out against three crime-fighting proposals, which include expanding the gang injunction to east and West Oakland, instituting an anti-loitering ordinance, and creating a day and nighttime curfew for juveniles.

"On Tuesdays and Wednesdays we go out, so that would affect us because police will be harassing us because we're out on the streets, but we're actually going to our internship," said Jackie Garcia, a Met West High School student.

Opponents asked the city to invest in activities and job opportunities instead.

"Yes, we need positive activities. Yes, we need a better school district, but we need this too. Our children are at risk, our elderly are at risk, our babies are at risk. We can't take this any longer," said Gilda Gonzales from the Fruitvale Unity Council.

They questioned city research showing 72 mayors across the country claim curfews reduce crime and truancy.

"Why do something that doesn't have any evidence that it's going to make a difference?" asked Oakland resident Wilson Riles, Jr.

"If we don't try, how do we know it won't work?" asked City Councilmember Larry Reid.

Reid and Ignacio De La Fuente are pushing the proposals to give police more crime fighting tools, but opponents fear an increase in racial profiling.

"There's a history of discriminatory law enforcement and so when you tell the young people, 'Hey, we're going to have one more law that the police can enforce against you,' there's obviously that concern," said Michael Siegel from Stop the Injunctions Coalition.

But Reid says Oakland can't escape statistics that show blacks and Latinos commit the majority of violent crimes.

"People will always use the issue of racial profiling to get you to back away," said Reid.

To put things in perspective Oakland's overall crime rate, over the past five years, has gone down almost a third. There are 81 murders that have happened this year so far, but that's down from 103 five years ago.

By the end of the night, the council members voted to move the three items back to the Public Safety Committee for further review.

In May, the Oakland City Council decided not to move ahead with any more gang injunctions until they had a chance to study those already in place.

"We talk a lot about public safety, but don't do anything," said De La Fuente before the meeting. "Going to funerals and having press conferences and crying when someone is being buried, all of those things I think... don't work anymore. We should be ashamed of ourselves."

The safety measures proposed would include the stretch of International Boulevard where 3-year-old Carlos Nava was caught in the crossfire and killed on Aug. 8.

"The family that they say that they're doing this for -- the Nava family -- has not asked for any of these measures," said Rachel Herzing with the Stop the Injunctions Coalition. "They tend to be quick fixes again in terms of suppressing activity rather than really dealing with the underlying issues that would drive young people out of schools and keep people on the streets."

Mayor Jean Quan would not comment on the anti-crime bundle before the meeting, but she has come out recently against both gang injunctions and youth curfews, though Quan has indicated at least some support for an anti-loitering ordinance.

Libby Schaaf and at least two other council members support all the anti-crime measures.

"Cities that have great accomplishments in reducing crime, cities like New York and Boston and Chicago, they all have had policies like these in place for years," said Schaaf.

The mayor wasn't the only one to refuse comment on Tuesday. Police Chief Anthony Batts told ABC7 he would not comment either until he gets further direction from the City Council.

Five of eight council members must approve the measures before they can go forward.

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