A year after the City of Santa Barbara went to court seeking a gang injunction, the effort remains in legal limbo while the Santa Barbara Juvenile Court decides which information about the 30 alleged gang members can be used in a public trial.
The civil injunction, if eventually approved by Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne, would restrict the alleged Eastside or Westside gang members from associating with one another in certain areas of the city, wearing gang clothing or tattoos, having firearms or weapons, using drugs or alcohol, doing graffiti, trespassing, and recruiting or intimidating people in those zones.
Santa Barbara police say the injunction would be an important tool to deal with criminal street gangs, and drive a wedge between active members and at-risk youth.
Alleged gang members named in the city’s legal filing are represented by attorneys, and many have filed paperwork to opt out, which requires them to renounce gang life with proof, including no arrests, new tattoos or gang membership for three years. Sterne will rule on those motions as well.
Since most local gang members get involved in their teenage years, a lot of the evidence is based on juvenile court and arrest records, which are confidential under Welfare and Institutions Code 827, but it’s less clear which rules apply to the police information from “contacts” and run-ins with the defendants that didn’t result in an arrest.
Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Adams will determine what can be disclosed in the trial, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer may have to petition the court separately for each defendant’s juvenile information — or even each juvenile mentioned in depositions, which would mean dozens more, he said.
Dozer intends to petition for just one individual’s information with Adams to guide the process for the rest. He wouldn’t say whether he already has done so, but he hopes to have a ruling by the next court appearance in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on May 7.
“Until we know the scope of the ruling, it’s difficult to know the scope of our response,” Dozer said.
Sterne said she has been unhappy with the delays, as the trial was originally set for March 5 with the issue of juvenile information already settled. She has criticized the idea of a temporary injunction, arguing it would be duplicative of the trial for a permanent injunction, but Dozer says it is still an option.
Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez, Dozer and other authorities have said any names added to the injunction would have to be approved by a judge.
Gang injunctions have been implemented all over California — including Lompoc and Oxnard — and challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and community groups. Like others, Santa Barbara’s proposed injunction would criminalize some behavior that’s otherwise considered lawful, like going to a school or park, ACLU-Southern California staff attorney Peter Bibring has told Noozhawk.