How far do citizens’ rights to assemble freely extend? Citing an increasing gang presence in the city’s streets, Councilmember Nora Campos says it may be too far. The ACLU thinks differently.
The problem is gang violence. No one questions that this is a blight on the city, and the stabbing death of 15-year-old in gang territory earlier this month is just one example of the horrors that can be inflicted on children and families. Just last year, half of the city’s 29 homicides were gang-related.
That’s why San Jose was one of the first cities in California to enact a “gang injunction,” prohibiting gangs from gathering in certain areas across the city. It was a bold, if controversial, step, but Campos now thinks that it was not enough. She wants the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force to extend the rule.
At present, the injunction is only in effect in West San Jose, where the Surenos hang out. If Campos has her way, however, it would be extended to East and Central San Jose and parts of the downtown area. “I think these proposals and policies will give us an opportunity to refocus our resources and use them directly in hot spot areas in the city of San Jose that have been having a high increase of violence,” she says.
The ACLU disagrees. They argue that it would violate the gang members’ basic civil rights and lead to racial profiling by the police. According to Robert Rios, a former gang member who now serves on the Mayor’s Task Force, too many people could end up harassed by the police or even arrested for wearing the wrong colors. Instead, he prefers that outreach efforts to gang members be expanded.
But Campos has some powerful supporters, including County Supervisor George Shirakawa, who coauthored Campos’s bill, which is now being presented to the Task Force. Its approval is required before it goes before City Council for a vote.
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