Proposed Elk Grove anti-gang ordinance - a bad idea

The Elk Grove City Council is considering an ordinance aimed at curtailing youth gang activity. If enacted, the ordinance would make parents...


The Elk Grove City Council is considering an ordinance aimed at curtailing youth gang activity. If enacted, the ordinance would make parents criminally liable for their children "gang" activities.

According to a story in today's Sacramento Bee, the ordinance, in the words of police chief Robert Simmons would address
"significant number of issues related to gang activity or persons who identify with the gang lifestyle."

As often is the case, ordinance and laws come as a reaction to an event, or the perceived possibility of an event. In this case, supporters cite the recent shooting death of Sacramento Sheriff Vu Nguyen.

This ordinance is a bad idea.

While there is laundry-list of reasons why the Elk Grove City Council should reject this idea, let's list three reasons why this should not be enacted.

First of all, the passing of an ordinance without any specific plan to curtail "gang' activity, is nothing but feel good governance. It makes citizens feel safer because there is now a law against gang activities.

More significantly this provides great political coverage for the city council. They can say they are tough on crime whether or not it has the desired effect.

We are confident our current city council and candidates would be afraid to oppose this ordinance for this reason alone.

The second reason this should not be rejected is a matter of resources. Does the city, which will be facing a budget-crunch because of the real estate bust, want to spend the time, effort and money on a much-needed legal challenge?

Finally, the ordinance should be opposed on a much broader principle - it is a little thing called the Constitution.

How many rights, in this case an assault on the Fourth Amendment right of free assembly, do we want to give up? Do we really want to give more authority to the police than they already have?

As Benjamin Franklin said over two hundred years ago;
"They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

True then, true now.

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