Entries in Ban (13)


Texas Judge Bans Gang Members from Houston Neighborhood

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Texas prosecutors say one Houston neighborhood that's been ravaged by drug dealing and violence will be a bit safer after a judge's ruling barred 16 members of the Bloods, Crips and Most Wanted gangs from entering the area.

Prosecutors in Houston's Harris County decided to take a civil approach to the criminal problem under Texas's public nuisance laws. They had to prove to a judge that the individuals were gang members, who had criminal records showing that they were nuisances, according to the Harris County Attorney's office.

The judge ruled in their favor Tuesday, granting an injunction against the 16 gang members.

"This enables us to get injunctions against gang members who are causing nuisances," said Laura Cahill, senior assistant county attorney, who handled the case.

"This is a way to clean up certain areas where there has been a lot of gang activity, particularly drug activity. It has gotten so bad the area was called no-man's land because of the drug dealers out there dealing all the time," Cahill said.

The county attorney's office presented testimony and evidence in a civil trial Tuesday, including testimony from five Houston police officers.

None of the 16 defendants showed up to court or were represented by attorneys. They have not actively participated in the suit, and four are currently in jail, Cahill said.

Filing civil actions against gang members proved difficult because they are often transient, she said.

"We had an original list of 28 (gang members), and there are probably more than that, but we had hard a time tracking them down to serve them with a lawsuit," she said.

The judge's ruling Wednesday means that the 16 individuals are prohibited from entering the "Safety Zone," created in the Brays Oaks neighborhood of Houston, about a mile-square area in the southwest part of the city. The neighborhood, which has two daycare centers and an elementary school, is heavily populated and has been inundated by gang violence, Cahill said.

The county also used public nuisance laws in order to sue two Brays Oaks convenience stores where gang members were hanging out during the day, Cahill said. The county then worked with the landowners of the properties to put in place more stringent security measures.

Cahill said that a civil injunction banning gang members has happened only once before in Harris County.

Lead county attorney Vince Ryan told ABC News station KTRK-TV in Houston that the injunction would help the community become a safer place for residents.

"These gangs are committing numerous criminal offenses in this area, close to a school, in residential areas and close to residential areas," Ryan told KTRK. "This is to create a safety zone so that people in the neighborhood can feel more comfortable and also give officers probable cause for stopping these gang members."

Following the judge's ruling, any of the 16 gang members found in the Brays Oaks Safety Zone could face one year of jail time and a $4,000 fine.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Fla. Bill Would Ban Benefit Use at Strip Clubs, Casinos, Liquor Stores

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSE, Fla.) -- A proposed bill in the Florida state senate would ban people who receive public assistance from withdrawing money from their electronic benefits transfer program accounts in liquor stores, smoke shops, strip clubs and casinos.

Florida residents using a state-administered EBT card would also no longer be able to withdraw funds from ATMs at dog racing tracks and other gaming establishments if the bill goes into effect.

Known in Florida as Senate Bill 1048, the legislation seeks to "develop minimum program requirements and other policy initiatives, including enforcement procedures from the electronic benefits program," the bill states.

Funded by taxpayer dollars, the EBT program is established to help buy food, provide cash assistance, make healthcare available at low or no cost and help pay Medicare premiums, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families website, which administers the benefits program.

Those eligible for food stamps or cash benefits receive an allowance on their EBT card each month. Those enrolled in the program can use the card to either debit purchases or take out cash. The benefits remain in a participant's account for 12 months before they expire.

But there has been a problem with EBT users withdrawing cash from their benefit cards at liquor stores, smoke shops and casinos across the state.

ABC Orlando affiliate WFTV uncovered almost 700 withdrawals at stores with the words "liquor" or "beer" in the title, as well as about 200 stores with "tobacco" or "smoke" in their name over a 30-month period.

WFTV reported $60,000 in EBT card withdrawals were made inside a casino run by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians near Miami.

If the bill passes, first-time offenders would be ineligible for the EBT program for six months. Anyone who incurred three violations would be permanently disqualified from receiving aid.

If approved, the law would take effect on Oct. 1, 2013.

ABC News' calls to the Florida Department of Children and Families were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Judge Bans 8-mile NYC Skateboard Race

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It may conjure images of bad musical numbers, but the "Broadway Bomb" is anything but an innocent day at the theater. So says New York Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Wright, who granted the City of New York's request for an injunction against the 8-mile skateboarding event slated to take place Saturday.

Comprised mostly of longboard-type skateboarders, the race began with 14 skaters 10 years ago and grew to 1,000 participants from across the U.S. by 2011. The race stretches down Broadway, from 116th Street all the way to Wall Street, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan.

This year's attendance was expected to double. The size of the race and the participants' behavior in years past, the city said in a statement, "such as failing to stop for red lights, cutting off and weaving through moving vehicles...and instructing vehicles which have the right of way to stop so they can pass through intersections" are what led the New York City Law Department to seek the injunction. The office said organizers have never "sought or were granted a city parade permit" in the decade since the race has been held.

Though too late to secure permits for this year, Ian Nichols, co-founder of the Broadway Bomb, says the show must go on. Next year, anyway.

"I plan to take steps to get permits for next year," Nichols told ABC News. Nichols, 43, attributes the ballooning nationwide popularity of longboarding to his event's success. "Otherwise, if it gets any bigger, they might call in the national guard next time."

Nichols said he will not participate in or attend the race and that the race has been officially canceled. However, a note on the event's Facebook page insists the tenth anniversary Broadway Bomb will still take place.

"We are going to flash mob 116th Street and Broadway at 11:50AM and Start the Race at 12:00PM exactly," the note reads, "please don't show up until 11:50AM because there may be a police presence. Please share this post with everyone in order to keep us all safe. See you there."

The city's Law Department told ABC News they are aware of the note and said "participants will be reminded that there is a restraining order, and the event cannot proceed. Those who do not listen will be subject to police intervention, including possible arrest."

Nichols denied any association with the Facebook page and said the only related work he'll being doing from now on will be toward ensuring the event, with all the proper paperwork, goes on unimpeded next year.

"It has to happen," Nichols said. "This event means a lot to people who don't live in the most exciting city in the world."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bloomberg vs. Booze: Will Mayor Take on Alcohol Use?

Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Mayor Mike Bloomberg is famous for curbing the city’s smoking, soda, and greasy food habits with legislation, but New Yorkers are now wondering whether Bloomberg has set his next target on a different vice: alcohol.

A 50-question survey focusing on New Yorkers’ drinking habits is being formulated by the Department of Health, and will be used to try and understanding alcohol use and abuse in the city through telephone surveys, according to the mayor’s office.

A spokesman for Bloomberg said that the office is not currently working on any reform or legislation, and that the Health department surveys New Yorkers about health topics frequently.

“The focus of what they ask is about underage drinking. They’re working on the survey. There is no legislation at this time, they’re working to get a handle on what is happening,” said Mark Lavorgna.

Bloomberg has previously introduced legislation banning New Yorkers from smoking in bars and public places, banning the use of trans fats in food preparation, forcing restaurants to post calorie counts on advertised food items, and limiting the size of soft drinks to 16 oz. in restaurants and convenience stores.

All but the soda ban has been passed into law.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida County Library Lifts Ban on "Fifty Shades of Grey"

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Florida county’s public library system has lifted its ban on the controversial erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

The Brevard County Library System had pulled copies of the racy tome, and the two subsequent books in the trilogy, from its shelves earlier this month.

In a March 4 interview with The Palm Beach Post, Cathy Schweinsberg, the library services director, said the book did not meet the system’s selection criteria.

“Nobody asked us to take it off the shelves,” she said.  “But we bought some copies before we realized what it was.  We looked at it, because it’s been called ‘mommy porn’ and ‘soft porn.’  We don’t collect porn.”

But in a statement released Monday, the library system said it would immediately restock its 19 copies of the books in the trilogy in response to public demand.

“Earlier this month, a decision was made to pull Fifty Shades of Grey from our libraries as a result of published reviews and our own initial analysis of the book and its controversial content.  Since then, we have begun a review of our selection criteria and that review continues even as the decision has been made to supply the book in response to requests by county residents,” the statement read.

“We have always stood against censorship,” Schweinsberg said in the statement.  “We have a long history of standing against censorship and that continues to be a priority for this library system.”

Fifty Shades of Grey is the first in a best-selling trilogy by British author E.L. James.  The books focus on the relationship between protagonists Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, and explicitly detail the pair’s sadomasochistic sexual encounters.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida ‘Footloose’ Town Bans Nightclubs, Dance Halls and Skating Rinks

Fuse/Thinkstock(WESTON, Fla.) -- It’s a real-life Footloose story. Nightclubs, dance halls and skating rinks have been permanently banned by the city of Weston, Fla.

The city council amended an ordinance on Wednesday, outlawing these venues in hopes to “protect the quality of life” of residents, according to City Manager John Flint.  Weston, in Broward County, has some 65,000 residents; it was incorporated in 1996 as a family-friendly planned community.

“Using tools such as periodic pro-active zoning code reviews to avoid unlawful incidents are far more preferable than having to react to such situations with law enforcement,” Flint told ABC News in an email.

The Sun-Sentinel reported that over the past 10 years, 20 people have been killed by gunfire in or near a nightclub in Southern Florida.

Since 2002, five people have been killed in nightclub stabbings.

Officials say crime and crowds are two factors that influenced their decision.

“Safety is always our number one priority for our residents and everyone in our city,” City Commissioner Jim Norton wrote in an email. “I believe we are doing exactly what the residents of our city want us to do as their elected representatives.”

Norton points out that skating rinks and dance halls can easily mask nightclub activities, creating breeding grounds for violence and large crowds.

He says the city code still allows school dances and activities at youth clubs.

“Residents have a YMCA, a community center, many after-school activities, access to a variety of parks as well as a skate park,” Norton said. “These activities offer great outlets for recreation in a safe and secure environment.”

Weston citizens can also travel to surrounding areas to find a dance floor. Neighboring cities Davis and Pembroke Pines both have dance clubs and skating rinks.

But as for now, Mayor Eric Hersh says those types of places will never exist in Weston.

“There aren’t those uses in Weston, there won’t be those uses in Weston, and we were never planning to allow those uses in Weston,” Mayor Hersh told the Sun-Sentinel. “This is something that we thought would protect the city.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NTSB Suggests Nationwide Ban on Portable Electronic Devices While Driving

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday urged all U.S. states to ban drivers from using electronic devices while driving, including for text messaging.

The NTSB issued the recommendation after several investigations that found texting to be the cause of deadly accidents.

"According to NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a statement. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving. No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

Distracted driving, which includes texting and talking on a cell phone, is a major cause of death on the road. In 2009, more than 5,400 people died and nearly 550,000 were injured in crashes linked to distraction, according to the Department of Transportation.

The problem is rampant among teen drivers and advocacy groups, including Oprah, have launched aggressive campaigns to target this vulnerable group.

Nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, already bar drivers from using any electronic devices while driving. Thirty-five states and D.C. ban texting while driving. But virtually all states allow drivers to use hands-free devices, even though talking can be a distraction.

An overwhelming number of Americans support a ban on texting while driving.

In a CBS News/New York Times poll in October 2009, 97 percent of Americans said they believed texting while driving should be outlawed.

But despite that view, a record number of Americans are using their electronic devices while on the road. Forty-seven percent of all adults surveyed in a Pew poll in June, 2010 conceded that they had at least once sent or read a text message while they were behind the wheel.

An NHTSA survey released last week found that nearly two out of every 10 drivers and half of drivers ages 21 to 24 said they are texting while driving. According to the survey, drivers younger than 25 are two to three times more likely than their older counterparts to read or send text messages or emails.

The problem is so rampant that even the White House held a summit in 2009 to discuss legislative action to ban texting while driving. President Obama signed legislation that would bar federal employees from texting behind the wheel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


No 'Ho, Ho': Texas School District Bans Christmas Messages & Santa Claus

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- No, Virginia, there isn't a Santa Claus. At least not in the Fort Worth, Texas school district.

The school district's attorney sent a memo Thursday declaring that it's now prohibited for students to "distribute personal holiday messages" or exchange gifts during class, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Also, there will be no visits in class from Santa Claus.

The reason, argues district attorney Bertha Bailey Whatley, is that allowing students to exchange gifts and messages during class would "allow a student to distribute a religious message with the gift or card."

The latter practice is a no-no, but as the memo explains, "the school district cannot prohibit the distribution of unsolicited religious material directly to students if it allows other personal messages to be distributed during school activities held during the school day."

In other words, if it wants to keep kids from exchanging religious holiday messages, the district says it must prohibit the exchange of all holiday messages.

On the bright side, the ban only applies to class time -- kids can still exchange all the holiday messages and presents they want before and after classes, and during lunch.

And yes, it's still OK to wish one another a Merry Christmas.

Not surprisingly, some parents aren't pleased with the new rules, and plan to challenge them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fur Hits the Ban in West Hollywood, Calif.

John Foxx/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A tightly packed crowd of activists on both sides of the fur debate lobbied West Hollywood City Council members during a seven-hour-long meeting that began Monday evening and stretched into Tuesday morning, but when the vote finally came it was unanimous: Fur be gone.

The city council voted 5-0 to ban the sale of fur-apparel products, making West Hollywood the first U.S. city to pass such an ordinance, KABC-TV reported.

"West Hollywood is really taking the lead,” said animal rights attorney Shannon Keith, who said she’s seen animals beaten, gassed and skinned alive by people out to get their fur. “The animals can’t speak for themselves and nobody should have to die for vanity.”

But for some, the vote amounted to little more than a sham. Keith Kaplan, executive director of the Fur Information Council of Americaa and a 26-year resident of West Hollywood, was outraged that the city council didn’t take more time to consider the economic impact.

Kaplan said a study that found that 46 percent -- or 91 fashion stores -- in the West Hollywood area sell fur would have been ready for review this week. But city officials declined to postpone the vote, he said.

"It’s a shock to many that the city council has allowed themselves to be hijacked by a special interest and rather extremist group,” Kaplan said, adding that those who opposed the ban were far outnumbered at the meeting. Three retailers, he said, decided not to speak a half hour before they were scheduled to, citing fear of retaliation by anti-fur activists.

As a lead up to the vote, the group Fur Free West Hollywood has hosted rallies since January. Keith said four or five retailers expressed their worry about the ban during the public debate.

West Hollywood, which is in Los Angeles County, is known for groundbreaking legislation. In 2003, it became the first U.S. city to ban declawing cats. West Hollywood has also banned the sale of dogs and cats within city limits, as well as the testing of cosmetics on animals.

As for Monday night, city Public Information Officer Tamara White said it was business as usual. West Hollywood City Council meetings often take on hot-topic issues that run late into the night, she said.

"We’ve consistently worked to enact cutting-edge animal welfare legislation,” she said. "This is in line with our values.”

Worldwide, about 50 million animals are raised on fur farms and killed for their pelts each year, according to the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals. Mink production alone in the U.S. totaled 2.82 million pelts in 2010, with Wisconsin and Utah leading production numbers, according to the most recent study by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The new ban in West Hollywood is tentatively set to go into effect in June 2012, but the city council plans to meet again in two weeks to set the effective date, penalties for violating the ban and whether to provide exemptions for vintage clothing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


No Evidence Cellphone Bans Are Effective, Report Shows

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Despite nationwide initiatives to curb cellphone use while driving, there is no evidence indicating that the bans are effective, according to a report out Thursday.

Nevertheless, the 40-page document urged states to enact cellphone and texting bans, even as it declared that there is "no solid evidence that any [ban] is effective in reducing crashes, injuries, or fatalities."

The report, Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do, developed by a host of transportation safety officials, also called on employers, the automobile industry and the federal government to continue to develop tests and implement measures to combat all forms of distracted driving.

The report summarized all research on distracted drivers available as of January 2011 and focused its attention on distractions caused by cellphones and text messaging.

One recent study said that about two-thirds of all drivers reported using a cellphone while driving.

The new document found that there was no conclusive evidence whether hands-free cellphone use is less risky than hand-held use.  It suggested that texting may carry a higher risk than other forms of cellphone use, but again found there was no conclusive evidence to verify that claim.

As of June 2011, 34 states and the District of Columbia had enacted texting bans for all drivers, but a 2010 study conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HDLI) found that the bans did not reduce collision claims.  In fact, claims increased slightly in states enacting texting bans compared to neighboring states.

HLDI suggested two possible reasons for the increase.

"Texters may realize that texting bans are difficult to enforce, so they may have little incentive to reduce texting for fear of being detected and fined," the HDLI report said.  Or, the institute suggested, texters may have responded to the ban by "hiding their phones from view, potentially increasing their distractive effects by requiring longer glances away from the road."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio