FW criminal and civil courts fight gangs


8/1/2007 2:50 PM
By David Yates

Weary of gang members coalescing in its streets, Fort Worth has followed the lead of two other Texas cities and filed suit.

City officials hope by seeking injunctions against 10 alleged gang members in Tarrant County's civil courthouse, they can forge a litigation opening for the county's District Attorney's Office to jump through and prosecute.

The lawsuit, City of Fort Worth vs. Northcide Four Trey Gangsta Crips et al, was filed on May 16 in Fort Worth's 48th District Court and calls for a 3.6 mile "safety zone" on the north side - the gang's territory - in which the defendants in the civil suit must cease and desist an array of criminal activities.

If the suspected gangsters continue associating with other gang members inside the safety zone, they will be subject to prosecution for a Class A misdemeanor on charges of violating the civil injunction, said Chris Mosley, a Fort Worth assistant city attorney who filed the suit.

"The idea behind this suit is that the criminal justice system works," Mosley said. "We've collected a lot of data and come up with the worst gang members. By preventing them from associating with one another, we hope to clean up the safety zone."

Mosley said that the city had already acquired injunctions against eight of the 10 suspected gangsters, and that Judge David Evans, 48th District Court, will hold an injunction hearing for one of the remaining on Aug. 2.

He also said serving the defendants with the injunction hasn't been too difficult, since "these guys tend to be in and out of jail."

Critics of the lawsuit say the injunction violates the First Amendment.

According to an American Civil Liberties Union Web site, "gangs injunctions" first started in California and have consistently targeted blacks and Latinos, in low-income neighborhoods, "raising serious concerns that injunctions are another form of racial profiling."

Because this is a civil lawsuit, the alleged gang members do not have the right to a court appointed attorney.

Even though gang injunctions were pioneered in the Sunshine State, Mosley said Fort Worth molded its lawsuit after those filed by Texas cities San Antonio and Wichita Falls. "We've never done this before. We followed other cities' leads."

While inside the safety zone, the injunction also prohibits suspected gang members from drinking while operating a motor vehicle, fighting, harassing or threatening people and carrying spray paint, Mosley said.

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