Editorial: Keeping criminals at bay in Bayview

Today in Department 301 of the Superior Court, Judge Peter Busch will decide whether to grant City Attorney Dennis Herrera a preliminary injunction against the Oakdale Mob. If that sounds like the workaday stuff the briefcase toters routinely busy themselves with at the McAllister Street courthouse, think again.

If Judge Busch favors Herrera, as we earnestly hope he does, he will be helping to introduce a novel form of crime fighting to the Bay Area. On Oct. 30 — coincidentally, the day before the Halloween shooting spree in the Castro — the judge issued a temporary restraining order against these excessively violent criminals.

The injunction, which prohibits named Oakdale Mob members from gathering within a four-block area of Bayview-Hunters Point, suggested The City was moving forward — finally and seriously — to carry out its first responsibility. (That would be public safety, to those who thought it was combating global warming).

Civil injunctions, as opposed to criminal prosecutions, explain District Attorney Kamala Harris’ eager cooperation with the city attorney. As a supplemental tool, they have shown success in some Southern California communities. It’s refreshing to see The City’s law enforcement officials resist the “not invented here” syndrome.

San Francisco, of course, enjoys a proud civil libertarian tradition. So, sure enough, The City has met resistance from Oakdale Mob counsel, which protests the injunction with feeble arguments about how it interferes with the freedom of individuals to associate with one another, never mind that such associations form with the intent to commit crimes.

The City has circumscribed this four-block “turf” because, Herrera alleges, the Mob uses it to conduct illegal drug sales, carjackings, armed robberies, aggravated assaults and homicides. Oakdale members are suspects in at least 12 killings since 2002. Residents find the area unlivable, sometimes dropping to the floors for safety as bullets spray their interior walls.

Focusing on the liberties of these residents must be the priority of The City. It is, after all, a civil liberty to cross your own living room in an upright position, to stroll your neighborhood cheerfully, to watch your children play outside unmolested. No gang member’s “liberty” to conduct nefarious business compares.

Harris reports that 21 of the 22 gang members named in the injunction don’t even live in San Francisco.These commuter criminals actually make their way from Fairfield, Pinole, Vallejo and Daly City. Since Judge Busch issued his temporary restraining order, effectively throwing up an invisible force field around those four blocks, no arrests have been made.

That’s not owing to police ineptitude. Rather, the gang bangers stay clear, knowing what’s in store for them if they return to their old turf. We’d call that evidence of success, and we may only hope Judge Busch recognizes it as such.

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