Fed up with deadly drive-by shootings, drug dealing, and graffiti, cities are trying a different tactic to combat gangs: suing them, the Associated Press reports. Fort Worth and San Francisco are among the latest to file suits against gang members, asking courts for injunctions barring them from hanging out together in certain areas. Injunctions are aimed at disrupting gang activity before it can escalate. They give police legal reasons to stop and question gang members, who often are found with drugs or weapons said. In some cases, they don’t allow gang members to talk to people passing in cars or to carry spray paint.
Critics say such lawsuits go too far, limiting otherwise lawful activities and unfairly targeting minority youth. “If you’re barring people from talking in the streets, it’s difficult to tell if they’re gang members or if they’re people discussing issues,” said Peter Bibring of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “And it’s all the more troubling because it doesn’t seem to be effective.” Civil injunctions were first filed against gang members in the 1980s in the Los Angeles area, a breeding ground for gangs. Los Angeles now has 33 permanent injunctions involving 50 gangs, and studies have shown they reduce crime, said a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.