CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The Hamilton County District Attorney General is trying to ban known gang members from being around their cohorts within a two-mile “safety zone” in a Chattanooga neighborhood.
District Attorney General Neal Pinkston filed a petition Monday asking that two Chattanooga gangs and 31 accused members be declared public nuisances and banned from partaking in a number of activities, news outlets reported.
If the petition is granted, officers could stop the gang members in the East Lake Courts neighborhood from participating in 11 listed activities, including drinking beer, owning graffiti equipment, signaling the arrival of a police officer and carrying guns and drugs.
“This isn’t about us,” Pinkston said, motioning to the numerous law enforcement officers who helped conceive the petition. “It’s about the people of East Lake.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is concerned with the petition and said authorities need to prove the 31 “validated gang members” actually are in gangs before cracking down on them, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported (http://bit.ly/2ddaqt1 ).
“They’ve got to serve the individuals they think are going to be under this order and let them come into court and prove they’re in a gang before they start enforcing it on them at all,” said Tom Castelli, legal director of the ACLU in Tennessee.
To validate someone as a gang member, officers use a series of factors such as tattoos, articles of clothing, social media, and confessions.
Castelli compared the proposal to the controversial strategy known as “broken windows policing,” in which, authorities have more power to arrest people for smaller crimes.
A judge is scheduled to hear the petition on Monday. Validated gang members named in the petition will also have the chance to argue against the petition at that time.