OAKLAND (CBS 5) — The legality and the effectiveness of gang injunctions are being tested in Oakland. Outgoing City Attorney John Russo named 40 or so gang members in a proposed injunction that covers the city’s Fruitvale district.

Under the injunction, the individuals named cannot gather in public in the area.

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The injunctions have their roots in Southern California in the early 1980s. It was a way for Los Angeles prosecutors to clamp down on what is now considered “nuisance” crimes by gangs, such as graffiti and tagging.

University of California Hastings Law Professor Evan Lee said it’s not clear if the injunctions actually reduce crime.

“The devil is in the details,” said Lee. “The evidence is kind of on both sides. It is not clear one way or the other. Is this really a success in reducing crime? That is not clear. Is it being abused? That is not clear.”

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Critics have claimed the injunctions lead to racial profiling. Proponents have said the injunctions are a tool the police need to help curb crime.

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts recently told a packed City Council meeting that he understands the community’s concerns.

“My purpose in the City of Oakland is not to hurt you because I grew up in South Central Los Angeles,” said Batts. “I was in a very impoverished environment. I wondered if anybody cared about my life. I am here to share with you as I wear this uniform; I care about the lives in the City of Oakland. I will take the tough stances to ensure that people have civil rights.”

Oakland’s City Council recently voted to continue more than three quarter of a million dollars in annual funding for the project.

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