Thousands of Angelenos whose movements, clothing and even relationships were tightly restricted under gang injunctions were released from those court orders this year, marking a dramatic reduction in the use of a crime fighting tool once hailed as an innovative answer to the city’s violent street gangs, it was reported this week.
The purge of names comes amid growing debate about whether the injunctions still make sense in an era of declining crime and gang activity, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Officials took the actions after a joint audit of the gang injunction rolls was conducted by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office and Los Angeles police in 2016, according to the newspaper.
“These individuals, while once active gang members, no longer pose a threat to the community. Many have steered away from gang life, having grown older and more responsible … while others have left the neighborhood and no longer frequent the limited geographical area that the relevant injunction covers,” city attorney spokesman Rob Wilcox said in remarks reported by The Times. “Still others are in prison, while some have passed away.”
The city attorney sent 7,300 letters in 2017 informing people they were no longer subject to gang injunctions — civil court orders that can restrict someone from associating with friends, or even family members, in neighborhoods considered to be havens for certain street gangs. Violating the orders can result in arrest.
Since 2000, the city has enforced injunctions against 79 separate gang sets, encompassing roughly 8,900 people, Wilcox said. Now, 82 percent of those people have been freed from the orders.
The massive cut to the injunction rolls came as civil rights groups and gang reform activists were pushing back against the court orders as unfair and outdated. LAPD gang injunctions deny targets due process, ACLU lawsuit say.
In a lawsuit filed last year, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the city’s enforcement of injunctions is unconstitutional.