Reject the injunction

Like any urban area, the city of West Sacramento has its share of crime—usually involving drugs, weapons, assault, theft, vandalism or graffiti. All communities pay a high price for such behavior. Also, no one argues the fact that some of this crime can be attributed to gang activity.

But a move by police and prosecutors to throw an open-ended gang-suppression net over a huge swath of the northern half of West Sac is also against the law. It has unfairly targeted some individuals without even giving them a chance to challenge their designation as members of a gang. The so-called gang injunction is overreaching, random and just plain unconstitutional.

As detailed in a recent SN&R cover story, “Round up the hood!” by Cosmo Garvin, prosecutors dropped the injunction over a 3-square-mile swath of the working-class neighborhoods of Broderick and Bryte. Misguidedly ordered by a Yolo County Superior Court judge in February, the injunction imposes a 10 p.m.-to-sunrise curfew on those identified by the West Sacramento Police Department as possible members of the Broderick Boys street gang. It also goes so far as to make it illegal for those on the list to associate with each other in public places. About 90 citizens have been served, but police say hundreds more may be added.

Some longtime West Sac residents who found themselves to be on the list are stunned to have suddenly lost the right to go out at night, to move freely in their own neighborhood and to associate with others on the police’s alleged “gang” list. Several of them told SN&R they simply are not affiliated with a gang and have no gang record. Even if they were, don’t they have to be arrested and tried before being found guilty?

The list is utterly too arbitrary. Wearing the color red is one police criterion for gang membership, because that color is associated with the Broderick Boys. Certain numerals and letters (like the “B” symbol from Budweiser ads) might help get you on the list. Tattoos often are used as criteria. Indeed, some of those included in the injunction seem to be there largely because of tattoos they had inked in their teens.

Despite SN&R’s repeated attempts, police and prosecutors continue to refuse to give SN&R information about why certain people were even included on the list. (Results of a California Public Records Act request are pending.) In any case, it’s hard to believe the prosecution is on solid footing here. It’s true that the California Supreme Court upheld a similar injunction in 1997. But that case was vastly different because it targeted only a few dozen alleged gangsters in San Jose and applied to an area of only a few square blocks where none of the gang members actually lived.

There are other, more recognized ways to go after gangsters, and Yolo County should employ them. It’s called catching people breaking the law. Let’s hope the American Civil Liberties Union or public defenders get the whole thing thrown out in the courts. For the sake of individuals who have been unfairly targeted based on race, clothing style or an errant tattoo, this should happen sooner rather than later.