Evaluating the criteria the city uses to classify folks as gang members

Representatives from the Lawyer's Committee, the City Attorney's Office and SFPD attend a gang injunction debriefing.
Sarah Phelan

I recently asked Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere about the criteria the city uses to determine if someone is a member of a criminal street gang.

More precisely, I wanted to know if any of the 41 young black men named in City Attorney Dennis Herrerra’s recently filed gang injunction in Visitacion Valley were named simply because they were seen affiliating with documented gang members and frequenting gang areas.

I asked because those are two criteria local law enforcement officials use to classify gang members.

According to Penal Code Section 186.22, a minimum of two or more of the following criteria must be met to classify someone as a member of a criminal street gang:
1. Subject has admitted to being a gang member (to any peace officer, school official, or juvenile hall employee).
2. Subject has committed gang-related crimes or engaged in gang-related activities.
3. Subject has been identified as a gang member by a reliable informant/source.
4. Subject has been identified as a gang member by an untested informant or source with corroborative evidence.
5. Subject has been seen affiliating with documented gang members.
6. Subject has been seen displaying symbols and/or hand signs.
7. Subject has been seen frequenting gang areas.
8. Subject has been seen wearing gang clothing.
9. Subject has identifiable gang tattoos.
10. Subject is a registered gang member under Penal Code section 186.30
OR—as a single criteria:
11. Subject admits being a gang member in a custodial classification interview.

"I don’t have a cheat sheet that says X has number 3, 7 and 10 on that list,” Mere replied. “But I will tell you that this is not the case that these guys just happen to be hanging out in the area, and weren’t committing crimes, but just got swept up."

Mere pointed to one of the declarations posted at the City Attorney’s website that alleges that one individual admitted to being a gang member, and was also convicted of second degree robbery, arrested in felony possession of firearms and ammunition, has been seen in the neighborhood with other documented gang members, frequenting gang areas and throwing a Down Below Gang’s hand sign.

“Our expert declaration lays out all the criteria,” Mere said. “And we have an opt out provision,” she added, noting that the Lawyer’s Committee has said it will help anyone with the opt-out petition. "But so far no lawyers or individuals have contacted us about opting out."

Another expert declaration documents how the SFPD received a tip that gang members had buried a weapon after a chase with the police and that when the SFPD recovered the firearm, they found fingerprints of one of the individuals now on the Viz Valley list.
The declaration says that this individual was then arrested and found with a plastic baggie containing ten off-white rocks of suspected rock cocaine between his buttocks.
Another individual named on the list allegedly took police on a chase through the Britton Courts public housing project and was seen stopping to bury a small off-white object, which allegedly turned out to be two bags of suspected meth. On arrest, this individual, who is not on the Britton Courts lease, was found with a bag of marijuana on his person.

 I asked Mere if the City Attorney's gang injunction could be impacted if voters approve Prop.19, which would legalize the sale of marijuana.

“I can’t say how Prop. 19 is going to affect numerous cases that have a gang component,” Mere said. “I will tell you that we put everything on the table. We have laid out our entire case. It gives transparency. And a judge still has to decide if the evidence is sufficient.”

But if there is all this evidence, why isn’t the District Attorney’s Office prosecuting these 41 individuals on criminal charges (a process that would also automatically give these men the right to a Public Defender)?

“I think [folks in the D.A’s office] do,” Mere said. “But we’re still seeing that despite the best efforts of the police department, that the nuisance behavior still occurs. This is just another tool to stop the violence.”

Mere said none of the funding to put together this particular case came from federal sources.
“We are the same eight lawyers that do neighborhood nuisance abatement,” Mere said.


Whats the point of this post? Other than posting the criteria the rest is a puzzle.

Those eleven criteria are pretty vague.

The constitutional right to free association/assembly should bar gang injunctions. But since progressives wipe their asses with the constitution thats moot here.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 27, 2010 @ 2:21 am

Gang injunctions are perfectly constitutional. The Founders incorporated common law into the regime, and "public nuisance" was an existing cause of action. There is no worse public nuisance than chronic gang crime. The first and main reason for the existence of government is to protect the public. Nothing threatens public safety worse than gangs and their close cousins such as organized crime and terrorism.

Posted by thechair on Aug. 27, 2010 @ 10:41 am

The others can be just hearsay proof then the guy has to prove himself innocent?

People shouldn't be denied their rights unless they are convicted of a crime.

It's tough, as I am sick of all the petty crime and criminal antics the progressives abet, condone and excuse in this city, so its hard to be against this when a parasitic stooge like Herrera finely does something. It's also hard to feel sorry for people who likely have absolutely no knowledge or interest in the people they torment with their criminal antics.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 27, 2010 @ 11:56 am

It's worth reading the views that candidates running in the race for D. 10, which includes Viz Valley, have expressed on this issue.

No one wants flying bullets or heavy drug deals going down in their neighborhood. But all those activities are already prohibited by law. And as one commenter notes, some of these criteria could be hearsay.

It's also still not clear how much money was spent to put this injunction together. (Both the SFPD and the City Attorney's Office say no federal money was used by their departments.) But without an injection of funding into alternative programs that offer young people education and job training opportunities in Viz Valley and other economically distressed areas in town, it's hard to see how these injunctions will prevent violence in the long term.



Posted by sarah on Aug. 27, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

When there are no jobs?

It would be nice, Sarah, if you were to offer a hypothesis other than "the government needs to spend money" as a suggestion for curbing the gang-related problems in Visitacion Valley and the Bayview. Enforcement is an equal part of what should be a multi-pronged strategy for addressing this problem. Looking at the issue of concentrated poverty because of the federal government's wrong-headed approach of lumping disadvantaged groups together in housing complexes would be a good start.

And if the issue is jobs then why was The Guardian so vociferously opposed to a Home Depot being built in the Bayview - which had committed to providing over 150 jobs to local residents?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 27, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

Why don't you go down to those areas and hang around there and look for your self. I'm sure you would have your eyes opened, I would like it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

I'm always happy to get my boots on the ground and go "down to those areas" as Guest put it. I I'm headed to Oakdale this week to hear from members of the first family impacted by Herrera's Oakdale Mob injunction.

As D. 10 candidate Geoffrea Morris, who is a friend of this family,  told me,"Injunctions mean total banishment from your community."

 I'd also like to set the record straight here:  I am not offering some personal hypothesis, but the views of those who life in Viz Valley and the Bayview. That's a voice that repeatedly gets omitted from these policy discussions.

Posted by sarah on Aug. 30, 2010 @ 10:53 am