By Ali Winston.
Three advocacy organizations took aim at one of the mainstays of Los Angeles’ war on gangs today, filing a class action suit against the city’s gang injunction program.
Born in L.A. and now used throughout California and seven other states, the injunction is a type of of civil nuisance abatement suit that restricts the associations and movements of alleged gang members. Since 1987, Los Angeles has successfully filed 49 gang injunctions restricting the activities of over 9,000 alleged members of 79 gangs. Statewide, there are currently more than 150 active gang injunctions.
The city attorney’s office and the Los Angeles Police Department consider the program a success, crediting it in part with plummeting gang-related crime and homicides over the past two decades. However, civil libertarians and community advocates say the injunctions subject young blacks and Latinos, particularly men, to unconstitutional requirements and stack the deck against them because there is no right to court-appointed legal representation in civil court. Anyone seeking to challenge inclusion in a gang injunction must hire an attorney.
The suit filed today names Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and City Attorney Mike Feuer. It was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the Youth Justice Coalition and the Urban Peace Institute on behalf of Peter Arellano and Jose Reza. The two Los Angeles natives found themselves subject to gang injunction restrictions even though, the suit claims, neither was ever served with a court order or allowed to challenge the designation in court.