Gang Injunctions: An Important Tool Protecting Our Communities
By Assemblymember Mike Davis
Gang activity and violence is a major problem plaguing our communities. On a daily basis young men are gunned downed or stabbed by dueling gangs. Innocent bystanders are also often caught in this crossfire. It is not uncommon to hear of children, even infants, being fatally struck by stray bullets from the guns of gang members.
According to a 2009 report by the Violence Policy Center, 32.7 percent of homicides in California are gang related. Furthermore, the largest percentage of male homicide victims (37.5 percent) are victims of gang-related homicides.
Gangs typically take over neighborhoods exerting power and control over several blocks of a city. Within their “territory,” gang members extort from businesses (for “protection”), steal cars, deal drugs, and run prostitution schemes. Make no mistake, residents live under the authority of these gangs. Crimes occur within eye sight but individuals are intimidated and scared into remaining silent.
The National Gang Center estimates that 32.4 percent of all local jurisdictions experienced gang problems in 2008, a 15 percent increase from 2002.
This is the reason local public safety officials are increasingly utilizing injunctions to control the activities of gangs and protect community members. Gang injunctions are civil suits used by District Attorneys to essential sue gangs on behalf the public and issue restraining orders, restricting members’ activity and prohibiting them from associating with each other.
According to the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) website, there are currently 37 active injunctions in the City of Los Angeles involving 57 gangs. These injunctions cover areas throughout the city including San Fernando Valley and South Central.
The LAPD, in charge of protecting this state’s most populous city, argue gang injunctions have a clear “positive affect” on the neighborhood area covered. “In smaller areas, gang nuisance activity can be permanently removed. In larger areas, with gangs entrenched for years, the gang’s hold on the area can be reduced and maintained with a small team of law enforcement officers. Anecdotal evidence is fully supportive; residents continue to ask for the period of peace a gang injunction can provide.”
Existing law makes a violation of any lawfully issued court order, including a gang injunction, a misdemeanor crime. However because all violations of court orders are prosecuted under one code sub-division, it is difficult to tell what type of court order was violated without physically inspecting the court file.
When reviewing a defendant’s rap sheet, a filing deputy does not know if the conviction relates to a Family Court order or because the defendant’s gang activity.
That is why I authored AB 2632, which would remove gang injunction violations from the current list of court orders that are prosecuted under the Penal Code, and instead make gang injunction violations a stand alone offense.
Creating a separate code section for gang injunction violations will allow law enforcement officers and prosecutors to better determine if a defendant was specifically convicted of violating a gang injunction.
The creation of a separate code section for gang injunctions will also help communities track the effectiveness of gang injunctions and will allow law enforcement to accurately answer questions about the number of gang injunction arrests and prosecutions.
Lastly, although hailed by law enforcement as an important tool against fighting gangs, injunctions are in some areas very controversial. As a result, it is crucial that we have data available verifying the effectiveness of Gang injunctions, which can only be successful if there is “buy in” by the greater public.
It is our duty as elected officials to protect the public, enacting laws and policies that aid law enforcement. AB 2632 does just that, and I applaud the Governor for signing this strong public safety measure. The bill has little cost and was supported by the Los Angeles County District Attorney, the California State Sheriffs Association, and the Orange County Employees Association.
Assemblyman Mike Davis was elected to serve the 48th Assembly District in 2006. Located in Los Angeles County, the 48th District is home to a myriad of diverse communities including: Arlington Park, Athens, Chesterfield Square, King Estates, Koreatown, Lafayette Park, Magnolia Square, North University Park, University Park, Vermont Knolls, West Adams, West Park Terrace and Wilshire Center.