First-ever gang injunction declared a success

Officials say the strategy to prevent gang activity at Cinco de Mayo was a successful one.

With the 2009 Cinco de Mayo celebration now a memory, St. Paul city officials have declared the first-ever use of a gang injunction in Minnesota a success. The injunction, ordered by Judge Gregg Johnson on April 24, stopped 10 specific Sureño 13 gang leaders from associating with other known gang members or wearing gang colors, showing gang signs and recruiting people for their gang in St. PaulâÄôs West Side neighborhoods. None of the 10 gang members listed in the lawsuit were seen by police at the festival. Despite a close call where the Metro Gang Strike Force stopped members of the gang who were planning to attend the festival carrying a gun, no arrests of gang members were made at the festival. With numbers still being tallied, the festivalâÄôs estimated attendance is just more than 100,000, Brian Gioielli, spokesman for the Riverview Economic and Development Association, the group that runs the festival, said. Although Gioielli said he did not see a major difference from last year, he counts that as a sign the injunction worked as it was supposed to. âÄúThe proactive approach was very successful,âÄù St. Paul City Attorney John Choi said. âÄúA very low number of known gang members were in attendance and they were not wearing gang colors or flashing signs.âÄù St. Paul police spokesman Peter Panos said criminal activity at the festival was low, with only a âÄúcouple normal drunk brawls.âÄù While other states such as California and Texas have police in place to enforce their injunctions, Panos said no more police were added. The festival had 25 officers on duty at any given time. Choi said the city will take the first gang injunction experience and assess what the next step should be. He said he believes the tool will be a way to âÄúproactively enhance public safetyâÄù for other festivals, high school sporting events and neighborhoods that are threatened by gang activity. Minnesota is the only state to use a temporary gang injunction, with the restrictions only in place from May 1-3. California and Texas use permanent injunctions.