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What Is a Gang Database? What If Your Name Is on One?

By Ceylan Pumphrey, Esq. | Last updated on

There are a variety of ways that the government tries to reduce and prevent crimes. One example is by having a gang database, which basically lists people who are members of known gangs. Sounds good in theory, but unfortunately, there appear to be many issues with implementing gang databases.

The Problem With Gang Databases

Even though many people in law enforcement see gang databases as a breakthrough in policing, civil rights lawyers find these databases to be problematic. In Chicago, for example, a person can be listed in the city's gang database simply by association or suspicion. This means that a person can end up in the database even if they're not arrested for a gang-related crime.

Additionally, most studies and analyses of these programs have found that they disproportionately impact people of color. Portland has acknowledged the problem with gang databases, and became the first city to abolish its database. City officials came to the conclusion that any benefits from maintaining such a list were outweighed by the negative effects it had on Portland's Latino and black communities.

Getting Off the List Is Not So Easy

Although the requirements and process for getting your name off of a gang list will vary depending on the city you're in, it's generally a difficult task. First of all, not all places that have these programs inform a person when his or her name is put in a gang database. Secondly, taking your name off of this type of list can prove difficult even if you're informed that you're part of the database.

In California, for example, a bill was recently passed to bring more accountability to the statewide database -- CalGang. The law stiffened the criteria for adding people to the list and requires the database to be regularly audited. The law also requires police to notify people who are included on the list and allows individuals to challenge their inclusion on the list. Even with the reforms to the state's gang database, one of the first legal challenges failed in court.

If you're concerned about being listed in a gang database, or if you've been charged with a crime, it's in your best interest to seek out a local criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your rights and options.

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