Injunctions used to curb gang activity
Do you know what an “injunction” is? It is a court order requiring someone to either do something or stop doing something. For example, an order that you not go to a certain mall or store – you are “enjoined” from being there. Or it could be an order that a school allow a student to wear a certain article of clothing (belt, bandanna or jewelry). In that case, the school is “enjoined” from prohibiting the clothing as a violation of a school rule. Violating an injunction may result in being held in contempt of court with consequences including jail or a fine.
Injunctions are also used to rid areas or neighborhoods of gang crimes. In California, Texas and Florida, for example, courts have authorized the police to enforce city curfews. The stated goal is eradication of criminal activity and establishment of peaceful neighborhoods. Teenagers are used to posted times in parks and public areas. These new curfews, however, apply to everyone, not just teenagers. In Los Angeles, California, a violation of the curfew can result in a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. Anyone seen hanging out in public after 10:00 p.m. or wearing gang colors is subject to arrest.
Housing projects, city parks and entire neighborhoods have been singled out for injunctive relief. Some claim that enforcement of the curfews has cut the crime rate significantly. Opponents argue that the injunctions lead to wrong identification of alleged gang members and the loss of basic freedoms. The ability to travel freely in one’s immediate area, to and from work or a relative’s home, are compromised under these policies.
What do you think? Is there a curfew in your area? Is it just for those under 18 or does it apply to everyone? Do you know why it exists? If you oppose the curfew, what can you do about it?