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Posted on 04.21.2014 11:28 a.m.

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission Oppposes Santa Barbara Gang Injunction

Source: Tom Parker for the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Commission

The Santa Barbara County Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission is appointed by the presiding judge of the Santa Barbara County Superior Court pursuant to the California Welfare and Institutions Code. It has the responsibility and authority to monitor all aspects of the juvenile justice system in the county.

The commission is statutorily comprised of no less than seven and no more than 15 commissioners representing all geographical areas of the county. Their duties include reviewing, examining, inspecting, conducting investigations, holding hearings and making recommendations to the court and to the State of California on the effectiveness and efficiency of the county’s juvenile justice system. The commission has subpoena authority through the presiding judge to assist it in conducting its business.

For the past year, the commission has been studying and gathering information on the proposed gang injunction currently being sought by the City of Santa Barbara. In addition to reviewing many of the court filings by both sides regarding the proposed injunction, we have received presentations by representatives of the District Attorney’s Office, attorneys representing the defendants named within the proposed injunction, former high-level law enforcement officials familiar with gang issues in other Southern and Central California cities, and community-based organizations working with at-risk youth residing in the city. Officials of the Santa Barbara City Attorney’s Office refused to appear before the commission.

The commission also received information on past and current crime rates, arrests of individuals designated as gang-affiliated, and the alleged gang connections of the named defendants in the proposed injunction.

The following findings were made by the commission:

» 1. The constitutionality of gang injunctions is still under serious judicial review in some areas of the state.

» 2. There is little reliable evidence of a serious criminal gang problem in Santa Barbara when compared to other California cities with identifiable and proven criminal gang problems, that   cannot be addressed through existing criminal and juvenile delinquency statutes and adequate law enforcement staffing, training and management.

» 3. There is a plentiful array of both federal and California adult and juvenile criminal statutes available to, and historically utilized by, law enforcement officials to combat criminal and gang    activity.

» 4. The overall crime rates in Santa Barbara, including violent crimes, youth crimes and gang-related crimes, have significantly declined since the injunction was first proposed several years ago.

» 5. The majority of the named defendants in the proposed injunction are already in prison, or have left the gang-life and/or are employed, raising families and otherwise living law-abiding lives.

» 6. There is evidence supporting the fact that gang injunctions tend to move crime problems from the so-called “Safety Zones” to adjacent and nearby low-crime neighborhoods.

» 7. The enforcement of the injunction would likely place significant additional resource and budgetary burdens on the governmental entities within the juvenile justice system, such as the courts, juvenile and adult detention facilities, the Probation Department, etc., which are already meager.

» 8. The hundreds of thousands of dollars that have already been expended by the city and the county in their efforts to obtain this injunction could have been better used in delinquency     prevention programs and enhancing police department staffing levels and training.

» 9. Too much discretion is left to law enforcement in applying the injunction to previously non-enjoined individuals.

» 10. The proposed injunction does little to address the many issues of at-risk youth that make them vulnerable to gang recruitment.

» 11. Instead of seeking to prevent gang and criminal behavior, the proposed injunction appears to extend the reach of law enforcement authorities into activities which would not otherwise be  considered of a criminal nature.

» 12. The injunction’s proposed “Safety Zones” encompass almost one-third of the city of Santa Barbara, thus potentially stigmatizing those major geographic areas and the citizens, especially innocent youth, residing in them.

» 13. These “Safety Zones” tend to create and foster suspicion, fear, dissension, isolation, a lack of community integration, decreased property values and urban decay.

After careful consideration and deliberation on the proposed injunction and the evidence regarding the need for same, the commission reached a unanimous decision, with one abstention, at its meeting on April 10 to oppose the issuance of the injunction.

— Tom Parker is chairman of the Santa Barbara County Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Commission.

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