Gray Panthers of San Francisco
January 2008 Newsletter

January General Meeting

youth gangs


January General Meeting: Response to Youth Gangs: Programs or Punishment?

San Francisco’s Gang Injunctions continue to criminalize minority youth in Bayview, the Mission, and Fillmore, instead of providing the jobs, education, housing, medical services, and recreational programs they need, and which could make neighborhoods safer.  The injunctions prohibit individuals named by police as gang members from being in the same area in the above “safety zones.”

Community objections to the gang injunctions include:  
  * There is no community input.
  * Police designation of youth as gang members is arbitrary and  on-the-spot.
  * Getting off the Police Department’s  gang list is difficult.
  * The injunctions interfere with programs that successfully reduce violence.
  * They target minority youth and neighborhoods in a racially biased manner.
  * They are used against neighborhoods targeted for gentrification.
  * They use police and courts to deal with what are social programs.

A recent Justice Policy Institute study shows gang enforcement strategies do not achieve meaningful reductions in violence, but social service interventions can curb delinquency. “The current preoccupation with gangs is a distraction from very real problems of crime and violence that afflict too many communities,” says report co-author Kevin Pranis.

Roberto Alfaro is with CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center, an immigrant family wellness and empowerment center, with programs in health, youth/education, and legal services.

Chris Gauger is with the SF Public Defender Office, which has taken an active role defending cited youth and opposing the entire Gang Injunction program.

René Quiñonez is with Homey, community advocates and former gang members working with at-risk low-income youth in the Mission to prevent violence provide alternatives to gangs

Youth Gangs and Gang Injunctions

What are they, who are they, what do they do, why are we demonizing them, what should our city do? The following report is background information.

The Community Speaks: Supervisors' Hearing on Gang Injunctions

There were no surprises on December 10 at the Public Safety hearing when a spillover crowd confronted City Attorney Herrera regarding the failure of gang injunctions. The Bayview Hunters Point, Mission and Western Addition communities voiced their concerns at the session before Supervisors Maxwell, Mirkarimi and Daly.

Speaker after speaker expressed objections to the gang injunction process. The primary issues: no community input before or after promulgation of the injunction; unknown and arbitrary basis for labeling someone a gang member; and no procedure for being removed from the gang list. Did tattoos, being a friend of a gang member or color of clothing designate gang membership? Speakers declared these standards flimsy and ridiculous. Other speakers asked why the Sacramento and Los Angeles Police Departments could set itemized and clear criteria for designating someone a gang member and San Francisco could not.

Matt Dorsey, spokesman for Herrera, who failed to attend the hearing, said that the City Attorney had the right to say what was cause to bring an injunction against a “gang member” and what was not. He said the charge could not be removed for any cause from the person’s record— a lifetime label.

Time and time again, strong statements were made demanding real solutions to the gang problem. Several persons asserted punitive measures are not the answer: jobs and job training, affordable housing, drug rehabilitation programs, after-school centers for children and youth, and equitable education were needed. Early in the hearing, Supervisor Maxwell questioned the need for black on black crime statistics. This issue and others led some of the attendees to wonder if the whole gang injunction imposition might be race-based.

This was an especially good example of community involvement.

See SF IndyBayMedia story and pictures of Gang Injunction hearing.

See SF Gray Panther webpage on Gang Injunctions.


(back to January 2008 Newsletter front page)