Gang activity has become a growing concern for many jurisdictions. As gangs becoming increasingly popular and their activities become more violent, local leaders in these areas are focusing on efforts to prevent gang activity before it happens. A particularly popular policy calls for creating local “safety zones,” areas where gang members cannot congregate. The specific restrictions of these zones vary among jurisdictions. They usually work in conjunction with a gang member registry that requires members report themselves to the local police.
The idea of a safety zones has been successfully implemented in many areas. Los Angeles, which faces an especially large problem with 41,000 active gang members, has one of the country’s most aggressive zoning assignments. Its success has led others facing similar spikes in gang violence and crime to consider creating their own safety zones. In Suffolk County, N.Y. local leaders are considering quartering off two square miles in the hamlet of Wyandanch. They are also considering using a gang registry tool, which Albuquerque, N.M. has also recently introduced. Together these tools allow police to keep an area of town gang member free and track those who participate in such activity. In Houston, a comprehensive law uses a civil injunction to create a 3-square-mile "gang safety zone." Within the zone, there is a 9 p.m. curfew , and police enforce bans on the possession of cell phones in a car, aerosol paint cans, wearing gang clothing, and making gang signs.
However, registries and safety zones have not always been a welcome approach to gang activity. The City of Oakland, Calif. has proposed a similar injunction to end gang activity in a safety zone of nearly 100 blocks in the northern part of the city. While the city is pushing these injunctions, local youth are railing against the policy with the support of the ACLU of Northern California, which has fought these types of zones before. They argue that these zones and registries are restricting the rights of the youth, that they will encourage racial profiling, and that there are in fact more successful ways to curtail gang activity and prevent recidivism of juvenile offenders.
You can read more about similar issues on the Knowledge Network topic pages for Crime Prevention, and Juvenile Crime Prevention and access documents like the ones below:
Gangs are a concern for cities across the globe as well. For more information on how ICMA International is working with local governments to tackle the issue check out the international crime prevention page.
Finally, ICMA’s Center for Public Safety Management provides many great resources for police management and improving public safety in your jurisdiction