Crime & Justice

Los Angeles sued over gang injunctions affecting thousands

Gang injunctions have been used since the late 1980s, but critics often argue they cast too wide a net, catching up people who are not actually affiliated with any gangs. In this file photo, then-L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich (L) is surrounded by Skid Row activists as he tries to announce a new civil injunction against several dozen individuals, including gang members, in an attempt to stem drug activity in the Skid Row area on April 7, 2010.
Gang injunctions have been used since the late 1980s, but critics often argue they cast too wide a net, catching up people who are not actually affiliated with any gangs. In this file photo, then-L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich (L) is surrounded by Skid Row activists as he tries to announce a new civil injunction against several dozen individuals, including gang members, in an attempt to stem drug activity in the Skid Row area on April 7, 2010.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Listen to story

00:52
Download this story 0.0MB

Activists are suing Los Angeles police and prosecutors, arguing that sweeping gang injunctions violate the civil rights of thousands of people.

The federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, says the 46 injunctions that bar gang members from such things as meeting in certain areas or wearing certain clothing in public are unconstitutional.

The suit says people covered by the 46 injunctions — an estimated 10,000 mainly black and Latino men — face parole-like restrictions without having a previous court hearing or other chance to prove they aren't gang members.

Peter Arellano, 21, told KPCC he was served with a gang injunction back in 2013 without a hearing.

“They basically just gave me the injunction paper and said ‘here you go, read it,'” he told KPCC.

The injunction said he could no longer hang out in public with certain friends or wear certain clothing because he was a gang member – and that if he did, he could be jailed for six months.

Arellano, who works at a warehouse, said he’s never been in a gang. But he has to be careful now. “I don’t really go into public view much anymore,” he said.

“That violates due process,” said ACLU attorney Peter Bibring. “Before the government restricts somebody’s basic freedoms they have to first give them a hearing to see if that’s justified.”

The ACLU lawsuit seeks to stop the LAPD from enforcing injunctions against anyone who didn’t get a hearing first. The civil rights group also notes “there is no empirical evidence to support gang injunctions’ long term effects on crime reduction in the targeted areas.”

A spokesman for the city attorney said he is reviewing the lawsuit and declined to comment.

LAPD officials have long said injunctions are an important tool in the fight against gang crime, giving officers a reason to stop gang members on the street who may be committing crimes.

In March, the city settled a lawsuit over gang injunction curfew restrictions by agreeing to spend $30 million on job training and other services for gang members.