Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard...

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer announce they are going to court to get an injunction to keep known gang members from congregating on Straight Path in Wyandanch, creating a two mile long "gang free" zone that will be free of street crime and intimidation. (Aug. 16, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy Tuesday asked a State Supreme Court justice to bar 37 admitted gang members from publicly appearing together within a 2-square mile "safety zone" in Wyandanch.

Flanked by police officials and representatives from several civic groups, Levy said Tuesday he had submitted the 37 names to Supreme Court Justice John J.J. Jones Jr., seeking a preliminary injunction to bar each from associating with any other gang member in the 2-mile area along Straight Path, the hamlet's main business street, or from intimidating residents by wearing gang colors, making gang signs or even gathering on corners or in parks.

All of the legal filings and responses to the county's request must be filed by Sept. 8.

"Gangs . . . have a propensity to take over school yards and street corners. They do not own those streets, the people of the community own those streets," Levy said.

If granted, Suffolk would become the first place in New York State where such a legal tool would be enforced, Levy said. Los Angeles and other West Coast communities have used such injunctions for years.

If the injunction is granted, the 37 people on the list -- most are from Wyandanch but others are from neighboring communities such as West Babylon, North Babylon and Wheatley Heights -- would be in contempt of court simply by standing together in public.

Amol Sinha, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the county has no legal right to seek such a ban. "This whole thing is unconstitutional," he said, adding that people who are not committing crimes have the right to appear together on public streets and other public property, regardless of their background.

Sinha said the NYCLU is reviewing the county's request, and could decide to oppose it.

Both sides agree the loitering laws police used decades ago to break up groups on the streets have been ruled unconstitutionally vague. County officials said some people on the list already convicted of felonies might be prohibited from associating with other convicted criminals.

Henry Johnson, of Concerned Taxpayers of Wheatley Heights, praised the county action. "It's a start," he said. "You have to start somewhere."

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