It’s long been referred to as the “swampy desert,” the turf of two notorious rival gangs in Visitacion Valley that have been blamed for drug wars, drive-bys and 10 murders during the past few years.
Now, San Francisco is attempting to clear out the dangerous gang activities with an injunction filed Thursday by City Attorney Dennis Herrera. The civil complaint was filed with the Superior Court against the Down Below and Towerside gangs.
If the injunction is granted, it would ban 41 adults alleged to be gang members from graffiti vandalism, loitering, trespassing, displaying gang signs or symbols and associating with other alleged gang members in a designated “safety zone” covering less than a square mile in the heart of the Sunnydale housing projects.
It would prohibit the possession of guns, drugs and other weapons within the area. Violations could result in a misdemeanor of up to six months in jail on top of standard penalties for the crimes.
Neighbors are tired of the crime and violence, but many are resigned to tactics like gang injunctions.
“We don’t need a gang injunction out here, we need programs,” said Ruth Jackson, who has lived in Visitacion Valley for 40 years. “It’s not going to solve anything.”
The two gangs use the designated area for selling and transporting crack cocaine, along with fighting, robbing and shooting rival gang members. They travel through the area to flee police and escape the scenes of crimes, according to the complaint.
“The residents of Visitacion Valley have been caught in a crossfire by warring criminal street gangs, and the injunction I am pursuing today intends to put an end to it,” Herrera said.
Herrera filed the injunction on Thursday as part of his ongoing effort to curb gang-related crime throughout San Francisco. It would be The City’s fourth civil gang injunction, with seven street gangs having been named, including the Mission district-based Norteños.
The American Civil Liberties Union has fought these injunctions in the past, saying they are an ineffective way to combat gang crime, said Jory Steele, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.
Steele said she’s still reviewing the injunction, and the ACLU has not made any decisions about whether to fight it.
“We are certainly concerned,” Steele said. “Studies show that gang-suppression tactics are ineffective and what really works are prevention and intervention.”
Herrera said his statistics show otherwise. Since the first injunction in 2006, arrests of identified gang members for suspected crimes other than violating the injunction have dropped 46 percent.
There are five criminal street gangs in San Francisco that have injunctions against their members, and two have pending injunctions.
Gangs on injunction list:
|Chopper City||Western Addition|
|Eddy Rock||Western Addition|
|Knock Out Posse||Western Addition|
Gangs with injunctions filed against them:
|Down Below||Visitacion Valley|