Do Gang Injunctions Curb Crime Or Allow Police Greater Focus?

Oakland city attorney again
mocks plaintiff snagged
by gang injunction

City officials in Hayward are watching Oakland’s experience with gang injunction intently for clues on how it can use the legal technique to curb its own problems with gang activity.

The San Francisco Chroncle’s Demian Bulwa reports today in the paper’s Crime Scene blog that two more of the 40 plaintiffs named in Oakland’s injunction were arrested this week. The number of arrests is now 15, according to the blog, but it also poses some interesting questions on how law enforcement and city officials can look at the effectiveness of gang injunctions.

That’s either a strong argument for the injunction, which would bar the men from hanging out together in a 2-square-mile “safety zone” and impose a 10 p.m. curfew there, or it’s an indicator that the criminal justice system is already well-equipped to handle these kinds of allegations without a costly civil suit. Or, in the view of defense attorneys, it’s a sign that police have decided to put a laser focus on the 40 men.

Bulwa writes one of the latest arrestees is alleged to have been packing a rifle across his chest when apprehended leading to this hilarious quote from Oakland City Attorney John Russo who mocked the alleged gang member by comparing him to a character on the HBO crime drama, “The Wire.”

“If it wasn’t so dangerous,” Russo told the Chronicle, “it would be almost laughable for someone to show up in court and proclaim his innocence, and then get caught running around Oakland with a rifle strapped to his chest like Omar from ‘The Wire.'”

Russo openly teasing suspected gang members in the media and on Twitter has become common. He chastised another suspect in a tweet after police arrested the man while preparing to testify in court. “Gang injunction ‘star’ defndnt found last nite in car w drugs & gang symbols. Last wk he testified under oath that he knew nothing re. gangs,” tweeted Russo.

Hayward’s foray into the legal world of gang injunctions is poised to begin sometime in the fall. There is no word yet on where the city intends to lay the borders of such injunction, but the city attorney said last month a 400-strong gang is being targeted for its first injunction.