Everyone has their own priorities. For some it’s money, others it’s a career. Jacqueline Inda’s priority is to protect her family.
“It’s not an us-versus-them thing. The reality is I’ve lived in this neighborhood all my life,” she says. “I know what happens on a day-to-day basis, and I see the pain of my family. I say family because my neighbors are my family. If you had community involvement, we would know what it’s like to live in our neighborhoods.”
Inda was born and raised in Santa Barbara. She spent her childhood bouncing around court-ordered protection, foster care and probation.
“This is why I love this city so much because I know what it’s like to be victimized, I know how it’s like to be a marginal youth, to go to one place to another, and I want to make sure those people have the opportunities (I have),” said Inda, the leader of Movimiento Esperanza, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youths.
She had two kids before age 18, one born with a mental deficiency, which she said led her to study psychology, to help with her son’s disability.
Each part of Inda’s life is interconnected. Or, as she puts it, “My life has been very interestingly put together by my life experiences and education.”
Her first job was as a crisis case manager at a temporary drop-in shelter that youths in Santa Barbara accessed in cases like Inda’s.
“My drive is making sure people have the opportunity to overcome barriers,” she said.
Inda founded Movimiento Esparanza after 15-year-old Emmanuel Roldan was stabbed to death July, 4, 2008. The nonprofit does not provide direct services; it’s meant to voice the community’s needs and to raise awareness of the city process.
“I think that’s exactly why I do what I do today,” Inda said. “I came from a rough road as a child, which helped me have the heart to help others today. It is because of the pain I went through I am more connected to those who suffer the same way.”
Inda and other community organizers formed a division of the nonprofit called One Voice, One Power, One Community to address Santa Barbara’s proposed gang injunction that would restrict the activities of the named 30 individuals.
The group’s purpose is to educate the community about the meaning of an injunction, what other cities have done and evaluate the current injunction document. The ultimate goal is to educate city officials on the negative impacts some parts of the document may have in neighborhoods. She said she strives to build into the existing document the protections needed to build community, protect the division of families and ensure true safety within neighborhoods.
Although Inda recognized the need of an injunction and its enforcement, she said the lack of community involvement in the creation of the documents would further harm the community.
“We’re a very progressive city, and to have a lawsuit filed by our city attorney that goes into the judicial process without community involvement is unfortunate,” she said. “I don’t believe the city had any intention of harming the community, but imposing the documents when a large percentage of the community is impacted by the gang injunction is wrong.”
The purpose of a gang injunction, according to officials, is to prevent gangs from committing crimes and deter youth violence.
Of the 30 people named in the injunction, Inda said half are in prison or jail and several others haven’t committed a crime as an adult. She added that the injunction would tear apart families and limit an at-risk youths from the chance of a successful life.
“These families would be crucial in terms of education, and it’s necessary for a parent to be a part of child’s life and provide a different avenue, but when you limit a parent’s participation for high-risk kids can’t expect different results,” Inda said. “If we had involved the community from the beginning, these red flags would’ve come up. My children live in the neighborhood that I grew up in, I love all these kids. It hurts me to see those families suffer.”
An injunction would prevent the person implicated from taking public transportation or going to certain parks. For working adults who are moving on and raising a family, Inda said it would serve only to divide the community even more.
“We don’t want to see people victimized but need to make sure there are protections in the document itself so families have ability to change their lives,” she said.
Inda noted the Lompoc gang injunction that at first looked exactly like Santa Barbara’s proposed documents. She said the judge amended certain clauses, overturned unconstitutional content and made modifications to protect the community.
“For us not to think about us as a whole county, it’s odd we didn’t do our homework,” Inda said.
Housing prices, businesses and future generations could be affected by a “blanket injunction,” she said, adding that it will also cost the city more money through civil suits and litigation.
“How do you explain to a buyer that you are safe but in a gang safety zone?,” Inda said.
She said that because there isn’t a a limitation to how many people can be added or how city authorities will enact the injunction 50 years from now, future generations may suffer.
“If we don’t have a safety net in the document, they can be skewed to anything,” Inda said.
She said the next generations need to be protected through a group effort and feedback — that it’s about protecting the community.
“My hope is we’re able to come to a compromise, take all of those involved and find a middle ground,” she said. “We have the ability to hold each other’s hand and move forward. My wish list is that we can move forward as neighborhoods.”