Herrera seeks sunset of successful gang injunctions

Decade-long injunctions against seven gangs appear to have contributed to drop in gang activity, with one gang folding altogether

SAN FRANCISCO (April 29, 2019) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced today he will ask the court to set an expiration date for four gang injunctions introduced about a decade ago at the peak of violent gang wars.

Under Herrera’s requested modification of the injunctions, which must be approved by the Superior Court, the injunctions would sunset on Dec. 31, 2019.  Under the proposal, that would happen automatically unless the City Attorney presented new evidence to the court showing that enjoined individuals are still participating in gang activity in the covered geographic areas. As has always been the case with San Francisco gang injunctions, any individual that would be subject to an injunction would have notice and the opportunity to dispute the evidence in court. After a hearing, the court could extend the injunction for those particular individuals.

At their peak, the gang injunctions applied to 150 proven gang members.  Following the latest comprehensive City Attorney review in 2018, 86 individuals were removed from the injunction because they had ceased active gang activity. At this point, 53 individuals remain subject to the injunctions. Before the Dec. 31, 2019 sunset date, the City Attorney’s Office will conduct another review to determine if a request to extend any of the injunctions as to certain individuals is warranted.

The City Attorney’s motions to set a Dec. 31, 2019 sunset date are expected to be filed in San Francisco Superior Court this spring. The City Attorney could bring new gang injunctions in the future if the need arose again.

“I’m pleased that these gang injunctions worked,” Herrera said. “They were never intended to be a panacea for gang violence, but they have been one small piece in a larger public safety picture that has seen homicides and violent crime plummet in San Francisco. Law enforcement is always evolving, and we’re entering a new era in public safety. My office will keep pursuing public safety solutions that protect San Franciscans. We will continue to work with law enforcement to file other types of targeted civil injunctions to combat human trafficking, drug manufacturing and sales, illegal gambling, and other dangerous activities that harm our neighborhoods. I look forward to continuing to work with our partners in law enforcement, community leaders, and elected officials like Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer and Supervisor Shamann Walton on innovative and effective ways to ensure public safety.”

“This forward-thinking change to the gang injunction policy recognizes that San Francisco is in a very different place than in 2007 when these injunctions were first implemented, as our neighborhoods have undergone dramatic changes,” said Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. “I thank and commend City Attorney Herrera and his staff for putting this forward; this is the right thing to do.”

“Today is a win for social justice,” Supervisor Shamann Walton said. “This protects the civil rights of people of color and allows individuals the opportunity to positively re-enter society without additional obstacles. I want to commend Supervisor Sandy Fewer for her leadership on this and thank City Attorney Dennis Herrera for taking this step to end gang injunctions in San Francisco. We are committed to bringing people together and keeping communities safe through prevention, intervention and rehabilitative strategies and policies.”

History of Gang Injunctions in San Francisco 

Since the end of 2006, Herrera has obtained four civil injunctions against seven violent street gangs that had been plaguing San Francisco neighborhoods with criminal and nuisance conduct. Each injunction covers one of four geographic areas. The following gangs were named in injunctions issued by San Francisco Superior Court from 2007 to 2011:

Bayview/Hunters Point: Oakdale Mob
Mission: Norteños
Visitacion Valley: Down Below Gangsters, Towerside
Western Addition: Chopper City, Eddy Rock, Knock Out Posse

The injunctions 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.  Among the misconceptions about San Francisco gang injunctions is the belief that they prevented enjoined individuals from visiting certain neighborhoods. That has never been the case. The injunctions prohibited enjoined individuals from engaging in gang-related activity in certain neighborhoods, not from lawful activity there.

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 no longer an organized gang.

In April 2018, Herrera launched a comprehensive review of the gang injunctions. As part of the 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 86 formerly active gang members.

The San Francisco Difference

San Francisco’s gang injunctions are notably different from other gang injunctions used across the state. San Francisco’s injunctions did not attempt to enjoin an undefined group, and they have never given unilateral authority to police officers to designate someone as a gang member. San Francisco’s injunctions name specific individuals with well-documented criminal activity; they do not simply apply to any member of a particular gang. The injunctions only cover adults and do not incorporate any criminal activity as a juvenile. There is also judicial review every step of the way. Only a judge can apply the injunction to someone, which occurs after a hearing and due process where the court determines the person is an active gang member engaged in extensive gang activity. Those individuals received notice of the court action and had the opportunity to address the allegations. The City Attorney’s Office went to great lengths to ensure that the individuals enjoined had the right to contest the allegations against them.

The cases are: People of the State of California v. Oakdale Mob, San Francisco Superior Court case number CGC-06-456517, filed Sept. 27, 2006; People of the State of California v. Chopper City, Eddy Rock and Knock Out Posse, San Francisco Superior Court case number CGC-07-464493, filed June 21, 2007; People of the State of California v. Norteño, San Francisco Superior Court case number CGC-07-464492, filed June 21, 2007; People of the State of California v. Down Below Gangsters and Towerside Gang, San Francisco Superior Court case number CGC-10-502262, filed Aug. 5, 2010. More information on gang injunctions can be found on the City Attorney’s website.