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Suffolk County Officials File Papers To Create Anti-Gang Zone In Wyandanch

(credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

(credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

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HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Suffolk County wants to employ an anti-gang strategy already being used in states like California, Texas, Utah and Florida. Officials are seeking court injunctions preventing known gang members from congregating in public.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports: Targeting Specific People

Suffolk County officials say they’ll seek a preliminary injunction to restrain 37 self-admitted gang members from associating within a two-square-mile “Safety Zone” in Wyandanch.

Civil libertarians have expressed concerns. But law enforcers view it as an important tool in curbing violent crime.

“These gangs have used fear and intimidation to claim this community as their ‘turf,’ but we are in court with this innovative initiative to take back these streets,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said. He announced the court filing at a press conference where he was flanked by police brass and civic leaders.

Levy also pointed to anti-gang injunctions being used in other municipalities. In Los Angeles alone, 43 injunctions covering 71 gangs and about 5,500 alleged gang members are in place. Last year, officials credited an injunction for transforming MacArthur Park in downtown Los Angeles from a place where killings and drug deals were common to a popular recreation area.

“The Constitution does not permit the government to banish people from public streets even if they are alleged gang members,” said Amol Sinha, director of the Suffolk County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The police have every right to engage in aggressive law enforcement to prohibit crime. However, it is plainly unconstitutional to banish people from public areas.”

The anti-gang zone has the support of civic leaders like Sandra Thompson.

“We hear gunshots at night and so people have to stand up,” she says.

If the Suffolk County injunction is approved, the 37 people named in the filing would be banned from congregating with other known gang members within the Wyandanch “safety zone,” officials said. Police officials said members of the Wyandanch Bloods or the Braveheart Bloods are among those targeted.

Those against the anti-gang zones will have a chance to file arguments. A hearing on the Suffolk County request for an injunction is scheduled for Sept. 8 in state Supreme Court in Riverhead.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)