Citing gang activity and a spate of recent attacks, a Boston city councilor wants to allow police to round up suspected gang members who gather in public places. Like a controversial loitering law in Somerville, Ma., the Boston proposal would target gang hot spots across the city and give police authority to arrest anyone suspected of intending “to further the common purpose or existence of a criminal street gang.” Paul Scapicchio, who is proposing the law today, said, “I’m not naive enough to think it’s going to solve all of the problems with gangs. That’s a social problem. But it’s a tool.”
Scapicchio said gangs in his East Boston district, especially the El Salvadorian and Columbian gang MS-13, have frightened and intimidated residents, often gathering on street corners and spray-painting, or tagging, public and private property with gang symbols. Recently, a woman was robbed at knifepoint by an alleged gang member. Civil liberties groups called Scapicchio’s idea ineffective. “Any gang ordinance is a blunderbuss that is designed to create a lot of arrests, but doesn’t really add much to the police arsenal,” sais the American Civil Liberties Union’s John Reinstein.