Thursday, May 26 , 2016, 1:03 pm | A Few Clouds 66º

Letter to the Editor: Republican Liberty Caucus Opposes Santa Barbara Gang Injunction

By Stephen Pratt |

Over the past year, there has been a discussion in Santa Barbara regarding the issue of youth violence and what policies should be enacted, such as the proposed gang injunction. The discussion has primarily been one of Pathos — emotional appeals to try to scare voters into thinking that there is only one solution.

The injunction adopts tactics that are used in other communities that have legitimate gang issues but with unintended consequences. Santa Barbara has chosen to pursue this with little or no public input. Police Chief Cam Sanchez claims only to “gain new tools in his toolbox” to address the alleged plight of gang violence.

Our goal at the Central Coast Republican Liberty Caucus is to address policy issues that threaten liberty and encourage action to be taken swiftly to prevent such threats. The proposed gang injunction is not only an unconstitutional policy, but will only serve to divide our community, lower property values, raise taxes to pay for enforcement and cause more youth violence. Any honest analysis of these “new tools” should raise an eyebrow.

To date it has taken over $1 million in litigation to implement and will potentially cost millions more in appeals and questions of enforcement. However, many of the “tools” that are being asked for are already in the “box” for individuals on probation/parole. They have very strict conditions, including not being able to associate with other gang members, curfews, having to obey all laws, etc.

What this injunction does is establish “battle zones” in the fight against youth violence. State Street is the dividing line between east and west with the beachfront added during special events. It is no coincidence that the battlefield lies within the lower income areas of the city with a high minority density and lower-income housing. The policy claims the right to freely assemble, petition government for redress, be provided an attorney when criminal penalties are threatened, due process and equal protection does not apply to all but can be removed within these zones.

In addition, the gang injunction targets 30 individuals the city claims are the most dangerous villains of the community. But the injunction will not only target these individuals, it also affects their “associates.” This has the potential to become a de facto stop and frisk policy.

The Constitution was designed to protect the individual as the minority from oppression by the majority: the government. This injunction is simply a test case to see if the court will grant this expansion of special powers to the police. After all, it is just 30 people, their families and friends, right?

Sanchez, the City Attorney’s Office and the City Council admit they have no idea what the cost will be to alleviate this issue of youth violence; they expect us to trust them with any and all resources for combat. They don’t want to remind the public of instances of police brutality, abuse of power or corruption. The city wishes to paint this as a public safety issue. But let us not forget that Benjamin Franklin warned us that if we sacrifice our freedom for safety, we deserve and shall have neither.

The RLC rejects these and all policies that selectively target individuals of a minority or any other group. We call on individuals in the community to come together and discuss meaningful solutions that will not divide us, but encourage those who feel alienated and rejected by society to return to the social contract.

We call on businesses, nonprofits and residents of Santa Barbara to develop neighborhood groups to promote skills in the workforce and address the issue of youth violence as a community. We call on the city to place the gang injunction on the agenda for public input and reflect the will of the people which overwhelmingly reject this policy. The only opportunity available for public comment on the topic, 46 individuals spoke out unanimously against the injunction.

We also call on members of the public to join the RLC at 6 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month at Rusty’s Pizza on Storke Road at 6 p.m. as we develop solutions to public policy, focusing on protecting our freedoms.

Stephen Pratt

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