Gang Injunctions

Since the end of 2006, City Attorney Dennis Herrera has obtained four civil injunctions against seven violent street gangs that had been plaguing San Francisco neighborhoods with their criminal and nuisance conduct. Each injunction covers one of four geographic areas. The following gangs were named in the injunctions issued by San Francisco Superior Court:

  • The Bayview/Hunters Point-based Oakdale Mob
  • The Mission-based Norteño gang
  • The Visitacion Valley-based Down Below Gangsters
  • The Visitacion Valley-based Towerside gang
  • The Western Addition-based Chopper City gang
  • The Western Addition-based Eddy Rock gang
  • The Western Addition-based Knock Out Posse gang

The injunctions were not envisioned as a panacea for gang violence. Rather, they were one piece of a coordinated effort by the City Attorney’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and San Francisco Police Department to counter violent street gangs and the harms they inflicted on the San Francisco neighborhoods they claimed as “turf.”

San Francisco’s gang injunctions are unique and have always been designed to protect civil rights while achieving public safety. They are effective and focused.

In the years since the injunctions were put in place, many of the named gang members have quit their gangs. One of the gangs, Knock Out Posse, crumbled altogether and is now no longer an organized gang.

In light of the changed circumstances and improved public safety, Herrera in April 2018 launched a comprehensive review of the gang injunctions. As part of that review, he filed legal motions asking the San Francisco Superior Court to modify the injunctions to remove individuals who were no longer engaged in criminal gang activity.

In 2018, the court granted Herrera’s requests to remove a significant number of formerly active gang members:

  • Visitacion Valley Civil Gang Injunction: 22 were removed; 19 remain enjoined
  • Mission Civil Gang Injunction: 16 were removed; 8 remain enjoined
  • Western Addition Civil Gang Injunction: 34 were removed; 8 remain enjoined
  • Bayview/Hunters Point Civil Gang Injunction: 14 were removed; 18 remain enjoined

The Effectiveness of Civil Gang Injunctions in S.F.

While it is often difficult to draw conclusions about causality from crime statistics, anecdotal evidence indicates that San Francisco’s civil gang injunction program has played a role — alongside the work being done by San Francisco’s Police Department and San Francisco’s District Attorney — in reducing gang related violence and nuisance conduct.

In all four gang injunctions, crime by enjoined gang members within the safety zone dropped. Felony convictions for those members before the injunctions totaled 104. After the injunction, the amount dropped to 58.

In 2010, then-Assistant Police Chief Jeff Godown told the San Francisco Chronicle that the injunctions were helpful for reducing the number homicides ion gang areas. “Last year was a historic low in homicides, and we are now on par this year to be at the same level,” Godown said. “The gang injunctions played a role in that.”

An internal analysis of arrest data by the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office suggested another important effect of civil gang injunctions: a general “cooling off” effect among gang members named in the various injunctions, who had markedly fewer arrests citywide following the imposition of injunctions. Since San Francisco’s gang injunction program was launched at the end of 2006, 46 percent of identified gang members (43 of 93) had gone without even a single arrest in San Francisco for crimes other than minor violations of the injunction itself in 2010. The data also show progressive improvements over time, with only 14 percent of identified gang members (13 of 93) arrested for non-injunction crimes to that point in 2010 — down from 41 percent in 2007.

Gang Arrest Graph 2007-2010, showing the percentage of identified gang member arrests dropping dramatically after the Civil Gang Injunction program was implemented.

No injunction has resulted in an observable migration of gang-related crime or nuisances to adjacent areas or to different neighborhoods, as evidenced by citywide arrest data and observations by experts from the San Francisco Police Department’s Gang Task Force. In addition to the statistics on the effectiveness of San Francisco’s gang injunction program, the following are two independent studies of civil gang injunctions in other California jurisdictions that indicate their effectiveness in helping to abate gang-related violence and nuisance activity.

How to ‘Opt-Out’ of a Gang Injunction

An agreement among the City Attorney’s Office, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area has established an administrative process by which individuals named in civil gang injunctions may petition to “opt out” from the court ordered provisions. City Attorney Herrera said the opt-out process “both maximizes civil liberties protections for alleged gang members, and ensures the effectiveness of civil gang injunctions to protect San Francisco neighborhoods from violence and nuisance conduct.”

Visitacion Valley Civil Gang Injunction On Aug. 5, 2010, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office filed suit against two warring criminal street gangs that have terrorized San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley for more than three years. The civil complaint filed in Superior Court names the “Down Below Gangsters” and “Towerside” gang as defendants in an action that seeks to prohibit an array of gang-related criminal and nuisance conduct by 41 adult gang members within a proposed “safety zone” covering less than two-tenths of a square mile. The resultant safety zone is an approximately .18 square mile “L” shaped area bordered by Schwerin Avenue, Visitacion Avenue and Hahn Street, and the Sunnydale Public Housing Development’s northern, western and southern borders, the latter of which then proceeds along Velasco Avenue. The safety zone encompasses both known gang turfs together with an adjoining buffer zone between and near the two turf areas.

Key Documents from the Visitacion Valley Gang Injunction Case

Mission Civil Gang Injunction According to the San Francisco Superior Court’s Order Granting Preliminary Injunction of October 12, 2007, the Safety Zone enjoining members of the Norteño gang “is defined as an ‘L’ shaped area generally bordered by 23rd Street to the North (but extending to 21st Street at Alabama Street), Valencia to the West, Cesar Chavez to the South, Potrero Avenue to the East, and extending to encompass La Raza Parl, also known as Potrero Del Sol Park.”

Western Addition Civil Gang Injunction According to the San chopper-city-knock-out-posse-safety-zoneFrancisco Superior Court’s December 18, 2007 Judgment Granting Permanent Injunction against Eddy Rock, Chopper City and Knock Out Posse Gangs, the following are the court-ordered Safety Zones. The Chopper City and Knock Out Posse Safety Zone “includes that area of San Francisco that is bordered by and includes Ellis Street to the North, Divisadero Street to the West, Turk Street to the South, and Steiner Street to the East.” eddy-rock-safety-zone The Eddy Rock Safety Zone “includes that area of San Francisco that is bordered by and includes Ellis Street to the North, Gough Street to the east, Turk Street to the south, and Webster Street to the West.”

Bayview/Hunters Point Civil Gang Injunction According to the San Francisco Superior Court’s March 15, 2007 Judgment Granting Permanent Injunction against the Oakdale Mob, the court-ordered Safety Zone is “located in the City and County of San Francisco, bounded by Griffith Street to the east, Palou Avenue to the south, Ingalls Street to the west, and Navy Road to the north, continuing straight beyond the end of Navy Road to where it would intersect with Ingalls Street, and including both sides of those four boundaries streets.”