Activists call for an end to San Francisco gang injunctions

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) This past Wednesday, a group of criminal justice reform advocates demanded that San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera drop gang injunctions, which have been in place throughout different parts of the city, alleging that the practice unfairly targets young men of color.

First implemented in the city in certain areas in 2006, the injunctions identify known gang members and prohibits them from associating with other identified gang members within a specified zone. The individuals are also prohibited from flashing gang signs, participating in intimidation, recruiting and trying to retain members.

The advocates say that the injunctions are making life impossible for the people still under the injunction, many of whom are not even gang members anymore.

"Gang injunctions are racial profiling tools that hurt youth and San Francisco communities of color. The city attorney needs to drop them immediately," said Lucero Herrera with the Young Women's Freedom Center. "We need resources for young people and people coming home from jail that build 
neighborhoods up, not policies that criminalize them for life."

"These injunctions have serious consequences. You can't visit your family or go to places where you have business or you might work," San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said.

"The city attorney has said he was going to be reviewing these, but what they should have done is reviewed them every three years," Adachi said. "So, you have people who have been on these injunctions for years and years and years and they're saying, when is this going to end?"

According to John Cote with the City Attorney's Office, the gang injunctions are periodically reviewed and the office is currently going through a top-to-bottom evaluation.

He said the injunctions are not stay-away orders and do not stop anyone from going to school, work, or simply being within the specified zones.

To be included in a gang injunction, a judge must first review evidence in court and make a decision. The individual is then notified and can contest it at any time, Cote said.

"They are not a panacea, but they are a valuable tool," he said, citing that in 2010, four years after the injunctions began, nearly half of the gang members enjoined had not been arrested for any violent or serious crimes. Additionally, a recent review showed that more than 75 percent of gang members in the city's Western Addition neighborhood were no longer engaged in criminal activity.

Earlier this year, Herrera sought to remove 34 people from a gang injunction put in place in certain parts of the Western Addition.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors' Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee will hold a hearing on the matter on June 13.

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