SIOUX CITY -- Known gang members who congregate in public places could be arrested if they don't disperse when authorities tell them to, under a proposal that won first-round approval Monday from the City Council.
The council voted 4-0 to adopt the amendment to the city's gang ordinance. Councilman Tom Padgett had to leave Monday's regular council meeting before the vote.
At Mayor Mike Hobart's suggestion, the council will wait until June 6 to take the second vote in case residents wish to voice their opinions. Three votes are needed to enact the changes.
"This is another tool to suppress gang activity in Sioux City," Police Chief Doug Young said. "I have met with several community leaders, and they are very supportive of this ordinance."
When Hobart asked for the names of the people he contacted, Young said he had talked to Flora Lee of the NAACP, Frank LaMere of the Four Directions Center and the Neighborhood Network.
"This is giving police officers the authority to move them along and have room to get the kids out to play," Judy Darwin, network president, told the council. "We asked the chief to push forward on this for the summer."
Hobart voiced concern that the new law would create constitutional issues involving the right to assemble.
"We have narrowed the definition of conduct," Connie Anstey, assistant city attorney, replied. She said the definitions are based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a case from Chicago. "We have spelled out the criteria for what constitutes a gang member."
The law also outlines conduct gang members would engage in to allow police to order them to disperse or face arrest.
Councilman Aaron Rochester said, "They know there are specific parks where they hang out."
"You're absolutely right," Young answered.
A second part of the crackdown could be to seek injunctions prohibiting gang members from being in certain areas of the city. Anstey said, however, that proposal is not being pursued at the present time.
"It's very restrictive and is far more reaching and likely to draw a constitutional challenge," she said.
"We haven't reached that point yet," Young added.