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Quan's Tepid Support Threatens Gang Injunctions

Oakland mayor met with two defendants, but claimed not to know they were alleged gang members

An Alameda County judge is expected to decide this month whether to restrict the movements of people suspected of being gang members in the violent Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland.

The police support the injunction as a bulwark against the city’s soaring homicide rate, and the City Council recently approved financing for it in a narrow vote.

The position of Mayor Jean Quan, however, is less clear-cut. She has given only tepid support to the Fruitvale injunction and another in effect in North Oakland, describing them as “over-ambitious,” and has questioned their effectiveness.

Quan’s stance has drawn criticism from officials who say she could derail the policy at a time when the city’s crime rate is skyrocketing. Oakland has recorded 45 murders this year, almost a third more than last year at this time.

“The city administrator works for her, and the chief of police works for him,” said Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who supports the Fruitvale injunction. “You can make sure it’s not a priority for the chief.”

The injunctions effectively serve as restraining orders, within designated “safety zones,” against specific individuals named as gang members. Those people are prohibited from recruiting and associating with one another in public, and are subject both to a 10 p.m. curfew and to extra penalties for illegal activities like carrying guns and harassing witnesses.

Quan declined a request to clarify her position. Her spokeswoman, Sue Piper, said the mayor continued to support the injunctions but objected to the size of the zone boundaries and the number of people who might be affected. Piper said the issue was out of the mayor’s hands and no longer on her front burner.

Opponents of the mayor have become increasingly suspicious of her intentions. Until recently, her legal adviser’s firm represented gang members who are fighting the Fruitvale injunction in court. At the City Council meeting on May 17, when financing for the injunctions was approved, Quan met privately with two men named in the proposed Fruitvale order. She later said she was not immediately aware that the police had identified the men as members of the Norteños, a gang responsible for much of the violence in Fruitvale.

John Russo, the city attorney and the architect of both injunctions, is stepping down Friday to become Alameda city manager, in part because he clashed with Quan over the injunctions and other issues.

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