A controversial crackdown on gangs in the Boston suburb of Somerville, which has angered Latinos and worried civil libertarians, is being considered by several other area cities, the Boston Globe reports.
Lynn, Chelsea, and Everett are considering antigang loitering ordinances that would empower police to order suspected gang members to leave city streets or face arrest.
Some police chiefs and crime experts worry that the approach will lead to racial profiling, undermine community policing efforts, and cause administrative headaches. But it is appealing to political leaders, especially in smaller cities, who are eager to maintain calm among longtime residents and present tangible proof they are responding to concerns. Perhaps because of what Somerville Mayor Dorothy Kelly Gay calls her city’s “wake-up call,” officials there are squarely behind a new antiloitering law. Shocked by an attack on two girls last summer, Kelly Gay said she’s determined to quash gang activity before it spreads out of control.
Critics say the ordinance, which the legislative committee plans to take up later this month, is a political tool, not a crime-fighting one. Says an ACLU official: “I think it’s largely symbolic. I don’t think anyone seriously contends this is a useful or effective long-run strategy in dealing with violent street gangs.”