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San Diego Gang Commission Recommends Ending Controversial Gang Injunctions

A San Diego police car parked in downtown San Diego, Oct. 24, 2018.

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: A San Diego police car parked in downtown San Diego, Oct. 24, 2018.

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Last week, the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention passed a resolution that asks the City Council to immediately release any San Diego residents from decades-old gang injunctions.

Aired: July 11, 2019 | Transcript

Since the late-nineties, law enforcement in San Diego has used a tool called a “gang injunction” to limit the movements of people they believe to be members of gangs.

But critics have long questioned their effectiveness and fairness.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Last week, the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention, which gives advice on how to decrease gang violence in San Diego, took a step towards ending the use of gang injunctions in the city. They passed a resolution that asks the City Council to immediately release any San Diego residents from gang-specific injunctions.

These injunctions have fallen out of favor in places like Los Angeles and Oakland, where critics have said they violate a person’s due process rights by limiting who they can speak with or where they can travel to.

Commissioner and former public defender Geneviéve Jones-Wright introduced the recommendation. She said hundreds of people remain under these injunctions, even though San Diego law enforcement has not imposed any new ones in the city of San Diego for over fifteen years.

“Our gang membership is down, gang crime is down, and violent crime is down,” Jones-Wright told KPBS. “And so there is no point in having gang injunctions on the books that only serve to harass people, to keep people from certain neighborhoods, from being with their families, and also, in some cases, from having good employment and housing.”

RELATED: Prosecutors Remove Hundreds From County Gang Injunction Lists

District Attorney Summer Stephan, who also sits on the gang commission, voted against the recommendation. Her office has instead been releasing people from gang injunctions after reviewing their cases individually, following through on a campaign promise Stephan made last year. Earlier this year, 332 people were removed from the DA’s civil gang injunction list.

The DA’s office told KPBS that they expect to release more individuals from gang injunctions in the “near future,” but justified the continued existence of the gang injunctions by telling us that 97 of the people on the list had arrests or convictions from September 2017 to September 2018. It’s unclear the severity of those offenses.

“People who are genuinely taking steps to be lawful, contributing members of our community shouldn’t be punished by a civil court order that might be stopping them from getting a job, connecting with their relatives or moving on with their lives,” Stephan said in a statement to KPBS. “We worked closely with our law enforcement partners to identify people who might qualify for removal while at the same time making sure we’re continuing to protect the public from those who still engage in gang-related crimes and activities.”

Recommendations from the gang commission are presented to the city council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee for possible action. The committee is chaired by council member Monica Montgomery Her office tells KPBS their next update from the gang commission is slated for this fall.

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