Town tries to ban gathering gang members

August 16, 2011 3:15:02 PM PDT
Police cars and sirens are a way of life in Wyandanch. Authorities say the southern Suffolk County village is plagued with gangs, drugs, crime, and daily fear Najuma Brown knows all too well.

"It's scary enough when you're a kid worrying about gangs but also when you're a parent because now you're worried about your kids getting hurt," Brown said.

But after years of losing the battle, County Executive Steve Levy unveiled a bold new weapon in his gang-fighting arsenal.

Police will ask a judge to ban specific gang members from gathering, practically in the entire village.

"Gangs take over school yards, street corners, playgrounds, and many areas within a downtown district. They do not own those streets," Levy said.

Police plan to establish a safety zone covering two square miles right through the business district. And then ask a judge for injunctions banning 37 people from simply hanging out in public, anywhere in that zone.

Those 37 people selected because of specific criteria. They all admitted to being in a gang, they were implicated by other members, they have telltale tattoos and a record of arrests.

But civil libertarians say even gang members have rights. The Suffolk County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union plans to fight the injunctions in court.

Still, Najuma Brown says she's tired of the fear. And she welcomes anything that reduces gang members' grip on her hometown.

"If they're assembling on the corner as a gang, me personally, I don't think they have any rights," Brown said.