Gang injunctions are civil orders issued by a judge that attempt to target groups of individuals. This is usually an order asked for by law enforcement as a tool to help them label individuals as gang members and restrict their activities in a defined area. They seem dubiously legal because they make everyday activities, such as picking up someone late at night, illegal for the people they target.
Many people are concerned with injunctions because of their potential for harm. They impose restrictions on civil liberties, and they allow the police to give overly broad discretion to label people gang members without having to present evidence or even charge someone with a crime. Their predisposed notions of what a gang member looks like profoundly color their objectivity, which makes the injunction a carte blanche ticket for racist profiling.
However, they are issued in cases where a judge feels the gang is posing a significant public nuisance to the neighborhood. This type of injunction has been challenged and has gone before the California Supreme Court, which held they are constitutional.
Even though they have been considered problematic for years, law enforcement has continued to ask for them. However, places like Los Angeles have numerous gang injunctions but have lost more than 10,000 kids to gang violence in the last 20 years. Likewise, social service programs have proven to be effective at reducing violence and gang activity by providing jobs and job training to individuals and better educational opportunities for young people.
Communities have the role of opposing gang injunctions by providing public education regarding gang injunctions and their problematic nature. Likewise, people should write to their public officials and propose real solutions, such as better social service programs in the community.
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