The tactic of trying to cripple organizations by taking away their assets has been commonly used against the mafia. More recently, it has been used against white supremacist organizations. In 2000, the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million verdict against the Aryan Nations that forced the organization to give up its 20-acre compound in Idaho.
The center won its most recent case last November, getting $2.5 million from the Imperial Klans of America on behalf of a teenager assaulted by Klan members in rural Kentucky.
Money to repair neighborhoods
The City Attorney's office says it is moving against the 18th Street gang on behalf of residents who can't file suit themselves because they can't afford the expenses and they fear retaliation. Gangs control certain neighborhoods by exacting so-called "street taxes" on home and business owners as well as street vendors.
The suit seeks compensation for property damage, emotional distress, personal injury, and intangibles such as residents not being able to use public parks because of gang activity.
It names nine leaders of the 18th Street gang, which has operated for years in the Pico-Union and Westlake areas. One of the leaders, Ruben "Night Owl" Castro, is serving multiple life terms in a federal maximum security prison but still allegedly controls two gang subgroups, the Shatto Park Locos and the Hoover Locos.