Posted on May 6, 2021

San Diego County District Attorney Moves to Lift All Gang Injunctions

David Hernandez, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 28, 2021

In a move some view as a win for criminal justice reform, San Diego County Dist. Atty. Summer Stephan said this week that her office has filed petitions in court to lift all 20 injunctions against street gangs in cities throughout the county.

Seven of the 20 gang injunctions — court-approved orders that restrict the movements of alleged gang members — were dissolved as of Tuesday, with approval from judges in San Diego Superior Court.

For decades, police and prosecutors have used the injunctions to curb gang violence. But in some cases, the restrictions under the orders made it difficult for those who left that life behind to move on. Critics for years said injunctions, which stay in effect for a lifetime, impede the ability of people who put their gang days behind them to get jobs and housing. Some said the orders target communities of color.

“In listening to the communities we serve, I heard concern for the violence and harm that criminal organized gangs cause, but also that families are looking for more opportunities for healthy reentry for those who have turned their lives around,” Stephan said in a statement.


About 800 people whom law enforcement identified as documented gang members were subject to the injunctions over the years; the first in the county was issued in 1997. The 20 injunctions targeted 12 street gangs in six cities: San Diego, Escondido, Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and National City. The orders ban individuals named in the injunctions from hanging out with other gang members, flashing gang signs or wearing clothes associated with gangs in designated areas.

In recent years, the district attorney’s office purged hundreds of names from the injunctions, including 332 names in 2019 and 77 as recently as December. The San Diego city attorney’s office removed 51 names from injunctions within city limits in 2019. Police, prosecutors and judges agreed those whose names were removed no longer posed a threat to the public.

In addition, there was a process for those named in the orders to petition the court to remove their names, but many were unaware of the process and others were unsuccessful.

With the dissolution of all injunctions, all remaining names — 349 — will be purged.


Council Member Monica Montgomery Steppe, chair of the council’s public safety committee, said the injunctions unfairly targeted communities of color.

“Eliminating gang injunctions is a necessary step on the long road to reimagining public safety and equity in law enforcement,” she said. “There are no similar injunctions for white supremacists or hate groups. Therefore, we can clearly see how gang injunctions unfairly target, harm and potentially ruin the lives of innocent members of our Black and brown communities.”