The "safety zone" in the Mission is the largest in the city. Image from the City Attorney's office

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera will soon request an expiration date for the gang injunctions placed on certain city neighborhoods — a controversial measure initiated more than a decade ago as a supposed means of curbing gang activity.

Herrera announced Monday that he will ask the San Francisco Superior Court this spring to sunset the injunctions by Dec. 31. The injunctions barred individuals suspected of gang activity from portions of Bayview, Visitacion Valley, Western Addition, and the Mission District.

Currently, 53 individuals remain subject to the injunctions. At the height of the injunctions, some 150 individuals were barred from areas identified as being hubs for gang activity. After a review last year, Herrera removed 83 individuals “because they had ceased active gang activity,” according to the City Attorney’s office.

The use of gang injunctions — and their effectiveness in curbing gang violence — have been a source of contention. Herrera said in today’s statement that he is “pleased the gang injunctions worked.” Gang violence has, indeed, reduced since the injunctions were put in place around 2006.

But criminal justice reform advocates have long argued that the injunctions unfairly targeted communities of color, created barriers that prevented former gang members from reentering society, and violated individuals’ civil rights.

“This is definitely welcome,” said Roberto Alfaro, the executive director of HOMEY, a Mission-based nonprofit that focuses on violence prevention and at-risk youth. “There shouldn’t have been a gang injunction in the first place.”

The Mission District’s injunction covered the Southeast end of the Mission, covering Potrero to the east, Cesar Chavez to the south, Valencia to the west, and 21st and 23rd streets to the north, creating an “L”-shaped area called the “Norteño Safety Zone.” The injunctions barred suspected Norteño members from entering the zone.

Alfaro, however, said that legally banishing Mission born-and-raised Latino men from their neighborhood exacerbated another, unforeseen consequence.

“It was touted as a tool to reduce violence,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is, what it did is put pressure on a community that is already in crisis of gentrification and displacement.”

Herrera’s move was lauded by Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer and Shamann Walton. Fewer held a hearing last June in which she and other supervisors questioned whether the injunctions were necessary in today’s San Francisco.   

“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,” Fewer said in a statement.

Walton commended Fewer’s leadership on the issue and Herrera “for taking this step to end gang injunctions in San Francisco.”

Alfaro remained cautious, saying: “Let’s see if the City Attorney does it.”  

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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