Crime

Gang Bang

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If you're a gang member, it's hard enough to hang out on the streets, what with all the police scrutiny and gun-toting rivals. But for 35 alleged members of the Crips in the Venice section of Los Angeles, a court order issued in July has made it tougher still just to walk out the door.

Earlier this year, the city filed a civil suit against the men and got a ruling from a Santa Monica, California, superior court judge enjoining them from engaging in certain activities in a "safety zone" comprising the gang's traditional turf. Much of the proscribed behavior is not criminal per se, but believed to be "pre-criminal." For instance, the men can't carry even legal weapons or ammo in Venice. They are also under a 10 p.m. curfew and barred from having pagers, signaling to cars while walking down the street, hanging out with known gang members, and being on private property without a note of permission from the owner.

Lawyers for the defendants argue that the injunction sets the men up for constant police harassment. As one attorney told a local Venice newspaper, the order means that if the 35 men "step out of the door, they're going to get arrested."

The case has attracted organized opposition from black community groups such as the Nation of Islam–the men named in the order are African American. While claims of racism and unconstitutionality didn't stop the injunction, they did bring early publicity to a practice that will become more controversial if and when it becomes more widespread.