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As gang injunctions shrink, supes question effectiveness at reducing crime

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Supervisor Sandra Fewer asks a question of Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere at a hearing on gang injunctions of the Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhoods Services Committee on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

After completing his review of all four gang injunctions in San Francisco, City Attorney Dennis Herrera has found that 62 percent of the men named in the enforcement lists should no longer be considered gang members.

Herrera has asked judges to remove 86 of the 139 names from the court orders since April, including 22 men who he determined last Thursday were no longer members of the Towerside Gang or Down Below Gangsters in Visitacion Valley.

But removing more than half of the men is not enough for critics, who have called for an end to the practice altogether. Supervisor Sandra Fewer, who held a Board of Supervisors committee hearing on the issue Wednesday, questioned whether the remaining men should still be on the enforcement lists.

“We are not here to say you should never have done this,” Fewer said. “We are just saying that for these individuals who are now grown up, who have lived viable lives, are fathers of children, who have been gainfully employed for multiple years, that this burden should be lifted for them.”

Since 2007, the City Attorney’s Office has obtained injunctions on seven gangs in the Bayview, Mission, Western Addition and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods. Those named in the injunctions can face arrest for associating with alleged gang members, flashing gang signs or wearing gang symbols in designated areas.

The City Attorney’s Office argues that the injunctions have reduced crime in San Francisco and stopped those on the lists from committing felonies.

Yvonne Mere, chief of complex and affirmative litigation for Herrera, also noted at the hearing that the injunctions have “salient differences” from those in Los Angeles, which a judge recently blocked the city from enforcing.

“The goal of a civil gang injunction is to reduce crime and nuisance in a particular area,” Mere said. “That’s why we bring them and that’s what they do.”

Mere said those on the lists had been convicted of 104 felonies before the injunctions but only 58 felonies after.

But Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who cosponsored the hearing, said she was concerned about the lack of proof that the injunctions had successfully reduced crime, while at the same time restricted rights to movement and expression.

“The evidence that you cited to us, basically cutting in half the amount of felonies, it just doesn’t make sense,” Ronen said at the hearing. “Was this serious removal of individual rights necessary to make that change in the streets?”

Ronen noted that many of those still named on the lists have been dead for years, including Mario Woods, the man shot and killed by police in 2015. Seven of the 22 just requested for removal last week are dead, according to court records.

“People are dying and that’s why they are not committing more felonies,” Ronen said.

For those named in the injunctions, the orders can also impact family life.

Jason Jones is on the Visitacion Valley injunction as an alleged member of the Down Below Gangsters. Jones said Gang Task Force officers once pulled him over while he was taking his children to a Disney On Ice show at the Cow Palace and drew their weapons on him for no reason other than him being on the list.

“I got babies with me,” Jones said at the hearing. “I was so embarrassed that I didn’t even take my kids to the show. So we went home. I couldn’t explain it to my wife, so I told her we didn’t make it in time.”

Jones said the injunctions have also prevented him from taking his children to school because a Google search reveals he is an alleged gang member.

“For the rest of my life I can’t take it off the computer,” Jones said. “We might take it off the list, we might not, but we can’t take it off the computer.”

Those on the lists can petition the court to remove their names. Mere said just nine men have done so since 2007, one of them unsuccessfully.

So far, a San Francisco Superior Court judge has approved 34 of the men Herrera has sought to remove from an injunction.

Last Thursday, Judge Harold Kahn granted requests to remove names from the Eddy Rock, Chopper City and Knock Out Posse gangs in the Western Addition. The order also recognized the dissolution of the Knock Out Posse gang.

Requests to remove alleged gang members from the Visitacion Valley, Bayview and Mission neighborhood injunctions are pending.

Jason Jones testifies about how his life has been affected by being named in a gang injunction at a hearing of the Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhoods Services Committee at City Hall on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

BY THE NUMBERS:

Bayview’s Oakdale Mob – 14 of 32 men to be removed

Western Addition’s Knock Out Posse, Eddy Rock and Chopper City – 34 of 42 removed

Mission’s Nortenos – 16 of 24 to be removed

Visitacion Valley’s Down Below Gangsters and Towerside – 22 of 41 to be removed

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