Claiming that Santa Barbara’s street gangs are causing immediate harm, the City Attorney’s Office and District Attorney's Office have filed a motion in Santa Barbara Superior Court seeking a preliminary gang injunction.
The two offices have attempted for nearly three years — since March 2011 — to get a gang injunction against the Eastside and Westside gangs.
Soon after filing the complaint, Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne said the evidence for a preliminary motion seemed essentially the same as the permanent injunction that would go to trial, so there wasn’t a reason to delay it.
Sterne set a March trial date for the permanent injunction, but the city clearly wants to move forward with a temporary measure, since it filed the motion Dec. 13.
It is scheduled to be heard in court at the end of the month, well before the tentative trial date.
Acting City Attorney Sarah Knecht wrote that the gangs constitute a public nuisance, so the city needs immediate relief.
The proposed injunction has a long list of conditions for the 30 named defendants, who are all allegedly members of the Eastside or Westside street gangs in Santa Barbara.
If Sterne approves the injunction as written, the defendants won’t be allowed to associate with other gang members, carry weapons, sell or use controlled substances, do graffiti , trespass or wear gang attire within the “safety zones” that make up the Eastside, Westside and beach/waterfront areas of the city.
They wouldn’t be allowed on many school campuses or city parks, either.
Many city residents and advocacy groups have publicly opposed the injunction, and told the City Council they were concerned about racial profiling and the restrictive conditions.
The preliminary injunction complaint has a 355-page declaration by Santa Barbara police officer Gary Siegel Jr., who outlines the department’s knowledge of local street gangs.
The Mexican Mafia and Sureno prison gangs' influence on local street gangs has “significantly increased” over the last two years, he wrote.
In addition to graffiti, physical assaults and other crimes, gang members collect “taxes” from local drug dealers and street vendors, Siegel wrote.
Since most of the dealers and vendors are themselves violating the law, they are not likely to report the extortion to police, he noted.
The injunction civil case is scheduled to go before Sterne on Jan. 27 in Department 5 of the Superior Court.