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San Francisco City Attorney to argue for Oakdale Mob injunction

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service

November 21, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Three weeks after a San Francisco deputy city attorney successfully obtained the city's first temporary restraining order against a criminal street gang, the controversial case is set to go back to court.

On Wednesday morning, private attorney Damone Hale is expected to argue that the Oakdale Mob is not the group of criminals it's made out to be and in fact doesn't even exist and that the city's tactics are unfair toward his client, Shanteak Harris.

Deputy City Attorney Machaela Hoctor, however, hopes to turn the restraining order into a long-term preliminary injunction. She said that in the last three weeks the small "safety zone" in the Bayview-Hunters Point area has turned into a safer place thanks to the restraining order.

"There has been a dramatic decrease of reports of crime in the safety zone and there has been a dramatic increase in children playing outside," Hoctor said. "They're playing football in the streets, which officers hadn't seen in six years."

Officer Len Broberg, the gang task force member who has provided much of the case's evidence, said police haven't made any arrests since the temporary restraining order went into effect.

"We've had problems locating some of the individuals. They've gone into hiding," Broberg said of the 22 individuals named in the temporary restraining order. "One woman told me she hasn't heard gunshots in a couple weeks. Kids are actually playing outside."

But Mesha Monge-Irizarry, a Bayview District activist who has been a vocal opponent of the gang injunction, said spending the effort and money on an injunction is a waste.

"It's a disaster because a lot of kids have been targeted by that injunction even though they're not involved in gangs," she said. "We don't condone gang activity and we don't deny that gangs are involved in crime, but this injunction targets young black men."

Hale agrees and called the injunction just the beginning of "the depopulation of African Americans."

If Superior Court Judge Peter Busch grants the injunction at Wednesday's hearing, he would essentially be saying he feels the city attorney's case has enough merit to win at trial.

"There's no bigger restriction this court will ever make in its judicial life," Hale said of Wednesday's hearing. "Nothing Judge Busch ever ruled on will impact the city more than this decision."

Hoctor said she is confident the injunction will be granted Wednesday and that the case against the Oakdale Mob will go on to be successful. She added that she will push for a 10 p.m. curfew to go on top of loitering, weapon and trespassing conditions.

She also said that because she is serving the Oakdale Mob as an entity, more than just the 22 people named in the complaint would be subject to the injunction -- though they would have to be served with a chance to deny gang involvement before an arrest would take place.

"There is overwhelming evidence that they are a criminal street gang inhabiting a four block area around public housing," Hoctor said of Oakdale Mob and added that Shanteak Harris is one of the gang's known leaders.

But Hale denies the charges and said that the injunction would tear apart the community.

"Its not that we don't have problems, but this injunction could break up families, blood brothers," Hale said. "These folks won't be able to have Thanksgiving together on Thursday."

"Good kids are unable to hang out together," said Monge-Irizarry, who added that across the country, communities that have been the target of similar injunctions are usually the next in line for gentrification.

"Poor people of color are being pushed out," she said.

Hoctor, however, said that the injunctions have a long-established precedent in law, and in the case of the Oakdale community, there is no greater priority than stopping crime.

"An elderly, disabled man came up to me and thanked me," Hoctor said. "He told me this is the first time that he could remember that he hasn't had to sleep on the floor ... because of the fear of bullets entering his home. That makes this all worthwhile."

The hearing is set to take place at 9:30 a.m. in Room 301 of the Civic Center Courthouse in San Francisco.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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