Some cities around the country are increasingly turning to civil injunctions to fight gangs.
The injunctions prohibit gang members from associating with each other, carrying weapons, possessing drugs, committing crimes and displaying gang symbols in a safety zone — neighborhoods where suspected gang members live and are most active. Some injunctions set curfews for members and ban them from possessing alcohol in public areas — even if they’re of legal drinking age. Those who disobey the order face a misdemeanor charge and up to a year in jail. Prosecutors say the possibility of a jail stay — however short — is a strong deterrent, even for gang members who’ve already served hard time for other crimes.
Denver seems to be taking a different and, in my view, wiser approach, increasing the number of community programs, with a large assist from inner city churches and former gang members.
In mid-July, a private meeting was held between key city officials and up to 60 church leaders in an attempt to craft a coordinated strategy. That meeting, attended by Denver City Council President Michael Hancock and Safety Manager Al LaCabe, the top city official overseeing the city’s police department, produced a renewed emphasis on street intervention. “I think it’s time for all the churches to get together and do some big things,” said Butch Montoya, the city’s former safety manager, who is helping coordinate the initiative. “The need is greater for the churches to step up than it’s ever been.” As former gang members have aligned themselves with inner city churches, those like [Kevin] Mickens are now considered the city’s secret weapon in its fight against gangs
Civil injunctions are a Band-Aid. The community programs have the potential to change lives.