Oakland’s proposed Norteño gang injunction for the Fruitvale neighborhood is gradually making its from the court of public opinion to the courtroom of Alameda Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman. A preliminary hearing yesterday was rescheduled for Wednesday, December 8th at 1 PM, where Oakland law firm Siegel & Yee will ask Judge Freedman to waive filing fees for all 40 defendants and ask for court-appointed attorneys for some named individuals. Another hearing to review the proposed injunction is expected to take place in mid-January.
As the case works its way through the judicial system, City Attorney John Russo has filed court papers detailing the alleged gang activity of the 40 defendants. These documents include the declarations of 139 law enforcement officers, largely from the Oakland Police Department. Because the City Attorney is pursuing a civil action, a “preponderance of evidence” is all that is required to find the 40 named individuals guilty of Norteño affiliation – a lesser burden of evidence than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies to criminal law.
We’ve posted some of the filings below, but to save you the hours we spent poring over the documents, here are some critical points.
- Area 1 Captain Darren Allison, a former patrol officer in the Fruitvale area, makes a strong case in his declaration for the need to reduce gang-related violence in the neighborhood. Capt. Allison claimed 17 out of 40 shootings since the beginning of 2010 were related to Norteño activity. In addition, Allison stated Norteños were involved in 27 of 174 shootings in Area 3 this year, a stretch of Deep East Oakland dominated by the rival Border Brothers and Sureños. Here is a passage from Allison’s statement stating why he believes the Norteños warrant greater attention that their rivals:
“The Norteños are different from other gangs in that they “hunt” their rivals, meaning they often go into other areas of the City to commit violence against their rivals. I do not see this as much with other gangs.”
- It appears Russo compiled the declarations with a view towards the quantity of evidence. We are presented with the expert declarations of OPD Captain Darren Allison, Officer Douglass Keely and Officer Eugene Guerrero, who all have experience working gang enforcement in East Oakland. Also included are routine contacts by police officers with the named defendants such as low-level probation searches and noise complaints. The incidents also run back several years – the oldest contact noted in the OPD declarations is from 1995.
- There are a high number of juveniles involved in Oakland’s Norteño sets – the Fremont Federation of High Schools, Roosevelt Middle School, United for Success Middle School and Life Academy High School are all listed as recruiting grounds. However, juveniles are not included on the injunction. This is consistent with Russo’s stated strategy of going after the purported leaders of the Norteño sets. However, critics claim the information used to support the injunction is outdated and targets people who have moved beyond the gang life. Siegel & Yee attorney Michael Siegel said some of the defendants have engaged in gang prevention work and are a critical link in steering youth away from the streets: “These so-called leaders, the older generations, are the ones who can effectively do this outreach work. They’re the ones we need to be talking to the younger generation to get them out of this lifestyle – but we’re locking them back up instead,” Siegel told me last week. “We’re creating the basis for another crop of leaderless, wild young kids.”
- Despite Oakland’s 1986 sanctuary city ordinance, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents work openly with Oakland Police and parole officers in enforcement actions around the city. In the deposition of Officer Cesar Garcia, ICE Special Agent Bartisevics is described as taking part in a parole compliance search on April 27, 2010 with officers from Oakland Police and the California Department of Corrections.
- There appears to be a marked change in OPD’s gang enforcement around 2007, when Oakland was awarded a California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (Cal-GRIP) grant. After received the Cal-GRIP money, Oakland Police began more targeted gang surveillance and enforcement with the assistance of additional training, specified gang personnel and Probation Officer Dalen Randa, whose funding comes through Cal-GRIP money.. The OPD declarations from the past four years include far more instances of low-level contact with the 40 defendants and include notations about gang-related clothing, tattoos and music.