Sunday, February 25 , 2018, 1:24 pm | Fair 61º


Letter to the Editor: Santa Barbara Gang Hysteria

In an effort to fast-track the gang injunction, the Santa Barbara Police Department recently conducted a dragnet of military-sounding grandiosity dubbed "Operation Falling Dawn." A better title might have been "Operation Falling-Down-on-the-Job" since the SBPD saw fit to use innuendo and insinuation in place of hard fact or evidence.

In a press conference held to publicize the operation, Sgt. Riley Harwood went on record stating that, "We believe there’s a nexus between our gang-related activity and the overarching activity that you see perpetrated by the Mexican mafia and their influence over local gangs.”

Harwood made this assertion in response to a reporter's query about the SBPD's inclusion of a U.S. Attorney's Office press release on the arrest of members of the Mexican mafia in Los Angeles that implicated a local man. Yet when reporters from Mission and State contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office, they were told that the office was unaware of any links between the Mexican mafia and Santa Barbara gangs.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, said, “You have the indictment and you can see the allegations that we’ve made in that case. It pretty clearly discusses an international drug trafficking conspiracy and does not concern itself with street-level drug dealing.”

As we have seen in the past, Police Chief Cam Sanchez is not above defaming others in order to advance his political career. This accounts for why at least a couple of individuals he has claimed were "gang members" were, in fact, local housewives without any prior arrest records.

Adriana is a case in point. This young mother of two found out her name and birthday had been publicized in "Operation Falling Dawn" when one of her Facebook friends notified her of it. Gang enhancement policies that make it a criminal offense to associate with alleged gang members — even if they happen to be family members — allows the SBPD to significantly expand the scope of its operations by dragging in innocent people from the community.

In this way, the SBPD targets the friends and families of alleged gang members with extra-judicial harassment and surveillancing, and it is for this reason that Adriana was included on the list of 68 suspects. She faces the hardship of being separated from her husband — an alleged gang member who has yet to receive a trial — in what amounts to a de facto gang injunction policy already at play under paramilitary operations such as Falling Dawn. 

For those individuals concerned about the grave abuse of civil liberties posed by gang injunction policies, it's worth noting that so-called "domestic terrorism" falls under the Patriot Act, a piece of Orwellain legation hastily signed into law with next to no review in the aftermath of 9/11.

Kat Swift, Ph.D.
UCSB Gevirtz Graduate School of Education

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