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Police cracking down on gang members during Cinco De Mayo

Posted in Crime Prevention March 31st, 2009 @ 10:14 am

The city of St. Paul, Minnesota seeks court action to restrict alleged gang leaders and members from attending the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta on May 1st thru the 2nd. The city is requesting that a Ramsey County judge ban gang members to associate with other Sureno members, recruiting on behalf of the gang, wearing gang colors, flashing gang signs and a host of other activities in and around the Cinco de Mayo event.

If a judge agrees, the 10 — seven men and three juveniles — would be banned from a “safety zone” that encompasses much of the city’s West Side neighborhood, where the annual parade and carnival is held. Last year’s festival witnessed a drive-by shooting. As a result, police and organizers are concerned about the presence of gang members at the family fest.

The city’s goal is to prove that the Surenos, a Los Angeles-based gang established in the Twin Cities over the past decade, has been responsible for much of the violent crime in the past year. At least 13 incidents of shootings and other violence have been attributed to them. The police consider this gang as a public nuisance. If the law were passed, a nuisance declaration would allow the city to ban members of the gang from congregating or carrying out gang activities.

Similar anti-gang tactics laws in Florida, California and Texas have been upheld by courts. However, a spokesperson from the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU, said no such law has been challenged since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an anti-loitering ordinance in Chicago that sought to ban gang members from street corners. He criticized the city’s action as “a direct attack on freedom of assembly.”

Whether this violates freedom of assembly or if it is considered public safety, the city and law enforcement need to make sure that their community is safe from gang activities during important events.

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