City seeks injunction against Mission gangs 

In the wake of a controversial, yet reportedly successful civil court order against members of a Bayview district street gang, the City Attorney’s Office is seeking at least one more similar injunction against gang members in the Mission.

A civil gang injunction is an order that prevents named persons from participating in certain activities within a given area — often dubbed a "safe zone" — that may or may not be crimes, such as graffiti, drug dealing, breaking a court-mandated curfew or simply the gathering of named persons on a street corner.

Such injunctions are controversial because, in the name of neighborhood safety, it can impede a subject’s First Amendment rights to expression and assembly.

In late November, The City won a court order preventing 22 members of the notorious Bayview district "Oakdale Mob" gang from associating, doing graffiti or conducting criminal activity in a specified area around the Oakdale housing project. At that time, City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he decided to pursue the gang injunction due to the overwhelming number of complaints by residents about the Oakdale Mob. Members of that gang are suspected in several homicides as well as witness intimidation, drug dealing and selling weapons. Herrera also said that, depending on the success of the Oakdale injunction, he would seek injunctions against gangs in other areas of The City.

On Thursday, San Francisco police Sgt. Mark Solomon, who works at the Mission Police Station, confirmed a report in the Mission station newsletter that Herrera is in the process of seeking a civil injunction against gangsters in the Mission district.

Herrera’s spokesman Matt Dorsey declined to comment on any new injunction effort Thursday, citing a long-standing policy not to confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

The two main gangs active in the Mission district are the Latino gangs Sureños and Norteños, said Officer Henry Espinoza, who specializesin gang enforcement at Mission Station. The Sureños control the area around Mission Street between 20th and 16th streets, Espinoza said. The Norteños claim the 24th Street corridor between Mission Street and Potrero Avenue, he said.

Espinoza said the gang members — who number in the hundreds — mostly target each other for violent attacks, but they have been known to commit strong-arm robberies against non-gang-members, as well as selling drugs and doing graffiti in the areas they claim. The main effect of an injunction, he said, would be to curb loitering.

"With loitering comes the sale of narcotics," Espinoza said. "Then the addicts know where to go," as do rival gang members. "They know where they hang out, [commit] drive-by shootings, etc."

Since the injunction against the Oakdale Mob took effect on Nov. 29, 2006, the streets around the Oakdale housing project have experienced a drastic drop in gang-related crime such as shootings and carjackings, said Officer Len Broberg, of the Gang Task Force, who helped investigate and provided evidence for the Oakdale injunction.

Broberg said none of the 22 gang members named in the injunction have been arrested for a crime within the safety zone, nor have they been named as suspects in any crimes committed in the zone since the injunction took effect.

E-mail Adam Martin at amartin@examiner.com.

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