A gang injunction is a court order restricting activities by people known to be members of a gang in a particular area. Gang injunctions were developed as a law enforcement tool in Los Angeles in the 1980s and spread to other regions over time. Some people have criticized injunctions, arguing that they restrict civil rights and tend to suppress diversion and education programs that would otherwise help people in gangs seek employment and get out of gangs. Others feel they are an appropriate tool for some settings.
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors can be involved in the development of an argument for a gang injunction. The request to the judge must be carefully worded and argued, naming gang members and precisely describing activities of concern like graffiti, making gang signs, and loitering. If the language is vague, the judge may turn the request for a gang injunction down on the grounds of being hard to enforce and potentially restrictive.
The argument used to defend the legality of gang injunctions is that gangs can create a public nuisance in a neighborhood, making it difficult for residents to go about their daily business safely and comfortably. Essentially, the injunction acts like a protective order for a neighborhood, restricting gang activity and setting up clear penalties for situations when the gang injunction is violated. Critics believe this has the effect of pushing gang members into other communities, rather than stopping gang activity, and that injunctions are not effective for law enforcement in large cities where there is plenty of available territory.
Many law enforcement agencies make information about gang injunctions available to members of the public on their websites and in their offices. People can look up injunctions for their area so they know what kind of activities to report, and members of gangs can also review the terms of the injunction to understand what behaviors are targeted under the court order. Failure to abide by the gang injunction can result in fines, jail time, and other penalties.
Some law enforcement agencies model the language in their gang injunctions on that of existing injunctions, particularly those that have stood up to legal challenge, with the goal of making the injunction legally enforceable and as comprehensive as possible. In other cases, the language may be drafted from scratch to address the specifics of a situation. Law enforcement agencies often cooperate on gang-related matters and can provide advice and consultation to each other in the process of developing injunctions.