Friday, May 25 , 2018, 9:17 pm | Fair 60º


Local News

Opposing Coalition Hosts Forum on Santa Barbara’s Proposed Gang Injunction

PODER, People Organized for the Defense and Equal Rights of Santa Barbara Youth, says the city's plan falls short

If Santa Barbara’s gang injunction is granted by a Superior Court judge, local police could serve additional residents with the restrictive terms and conditions, speakers said at a forum Thursday night.

PODER, People Organized for the Defense and Equal Rights of Santa Barbara Youth, is a coalition created in October 2012 in opposition to the city’s proposed gang injunction. It hosted the forum at La Casa de la Raza

The group is against the proposed injunction because it doesn’t address the root issues of why children join gangs, promotes incarceration, is ineffective and is based on racial profiling, according to Gabriela Hernandez, a member of PODER.

Injunction documents were filed in court in March 2011 by the District Attorney and City Attorney’s offices, and the city didn’t discuss the issue in public until a City Council meeting two years later.

If granted, it would restrict the actions of the named defendants — 30 men and women in Santa Barbara — who are allegedly active members of the Eastside or Westside criminal street gangs.

The lawsuit includes 300 “Does” to leave open the possibility of adding more people to the list, which has obviously caused concerns.

Attorney Rachel Solomon, who represents juvenile defendants with the county Public Defender’s Office, explained some of the legal terms included in the injunction paperwork.

Even though the city says that only the 30 people are being included right now, current language states that the police could serve anyone with the injunction that they believe fits the court description of a gang member, Solomon said.

She said the injunction could be served on any boy, girl, man or woman who police believe meet the court definition of a gang member, as long as the injunction is in effect.

“Nothing in the lawsuit says it can’t be served on juveniles,” Solomon said.

When the issue goes to trial, now estimated for early next year, Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne could grant the injunction, reject it or change it, Solomon said.

The civil case is scheduled to be back in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Monday for a case management conference. Earlier this year, a judge ruled that juvenile records can be used against the 30 named defendants, and now the two sides are working toward a trial.

Since filing a gang injunction is a civil proceeding, the defendants are not entitled to attorneys so they’ve had to find private representation. There are “opt-out” procedures for defendants to get removed from the injunction, but that process has difficult provisions and can’t start until after the injunction goes into effect for three years, Solomon said.

Speakers also objected to the size of the restrictive “safety zones,” which include all of the Eastside, Westside, waterfront and park areas in town.

Nayra Pacheco of PODER pointed out that the “safety zone” map overlaps with low-income areas and high percentages of Latino residents.

PODER also requested financial information from the city on the court document and litigation costs, which was up to $481,000 for 2009 to 2012.

This money, plus hiring new police officers, is all being spent while crime rates have been decreasing in Santa Barbara, speakers said.

“There’s no justification for this, crime rates haven’t gone up,” Hernandez said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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