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Posted at 7:58 PM ET, 01/21/2010

D.C. crime bill isn't a cure-all

By editors

By Carl Takei

The Jan. 13 editorial “Don’t stop now” promoted D.C. Council member Jack Evans’s latest crime bill and said the council “dealt poorly” with the gang injunctions proposal he tried to pass last summer. According to the editorial, that proposal failed because “misinformation abounded, and the risk to civil liberties was greatly exaggerated.”

Misinformation indeed abounded during last summer’s debate, but it came from the supporters of gang injunctions. The Post editorial board and others repeatedly made misleading assertions about the effectiveness of gang injunctions and their impact on civil liberties.

It is not true that gang injunctions deter violent crime. In the short term, simple measures such as stepped-up police patrols accomplish far more. And over the long term, gang injunctions are counterproductive. By impeding access to social services and decreasing trust in the police, they interfere with programs that address the causes of gang violence.

It is also not true that injunctions would respect civil liberties. The proposal pushed last summer would have prohibited people deemed to be gang members from “congregating” in “public space,” regardless of their reasons for being there. In California and other states where gang injunctions have been imposed, such measures often ensnare innocent people just because they hang out with neighbors or relatives or wear certain clothing.

This year’s crime bill differs in important respects from last summer’s proposal, but needs close scrutiny for fairness and efficacy.

The writer is a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital.

By editors  | January 21, 2010; 7:58 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, crime  
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And where does the author live? Does he live in MD, VA, or the nice areas of DC, alongside our elected and appointed officials?? Walk up Georgia Avenue and hope your skin is the right color or the thugs are distracted, otherwise you might be beaten or worse.

(regardless, we don't have gangs in DC, we have crews, so the legal argument for gangs is moot)

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | January 22, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

To "mendelsonmustgo": Since you asked, I live in DC, within walking distance from some well-known gang/crew hot spots. Will that make you more willing to listen to what I (and my other colleagues at the ACLU) have to say, or were you just trying to score cheap points with a rhetorical question you assumed wouldn't be answered?

Posted by: carltakei | January 22, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Actually I was hoping you'd answer, though I had to dig around the site to find this post again. Apologies for taking a full 24 hours. Have you ever been assaulted and beaten and pissed on by the thugs that run much of the city? Its hell on many DC streets, and I am working very hard to escape this city for jurisdictions with simple common sense crime fighting. Were you to offer anything constructive in your post I might be more agreeable, but you simply don't. You and Mendelson have much the same viewpoint it seems, and its destroyed this city for decades and will continue to do so. Why are my rights secondary to a criminals? And why do you defend them instead of other law abiding citizens? Probably because you've never been a victim. Do you get to drive to work every day, or do you actually have to walk the streets you mention, or take a bus, and thus directly experience the danger out there?

Regarding the gang injunctions, they are not proposed to be arbitrarily imposed, rather only after review by a judge. Correct? Would that not avoid many of the issues you allude to?

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | January 23, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Apologies for taking a while to follow up as well. After checking once, I had assumed you weren't replying.

I do experience the streets around where I live, as I use public transit (both buses and Metrorail) to get around.

As for the other issues you've raised, I encourage you to read the ACLU's testimony to the Council from last summer. The most directly relevant testimony is at and the rest is available at . The ACLU has no problem with effective, evidence-based measures that respect civil liberties. To its credit, the Council adopted a blueprint for action to counter gang violence last summer which incorporates many such measures. However, we object to the use of "tough on crime" rhetoric to push ineffective policies (such as last summer's failed gang injunctions proposal) that harm innocent people while failing to bring about real change.

Posted by: carltakei | January 24, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

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