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Santa Barbara Detective Testifies in Gang Injunction Case

Santa Barbara police Detective Gary Siegel testified Friday about the culture and behavior of local gangs during the trial for the city's proposed gang injunction.

Siegel wrote the massive 450-page declaration that served as the base for the petition.

If granted by Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne, the injunction would place restrictions on named members of the Eastside and Westside gangs of Santa Barbara.

The City Attorney's Office, District Attorney's Office and the Police Department are behind the petition, and a group of defense attorneys are representing the individual clients and arguing against the gang injunction. Both sides gave opening remarks on Tuesday, the first day of trial.

There has been ongoing criminal gang activity in Santa Barbara for decades, Siegel testified. He said State Street is the dividing line between territories, and as a result, there have been confrontations and even homicides in the busy downtown area in addition to each gang’s territory.

Siegel pointed to two teen-on-teen stabbing homicides as examples of the local gang rivalry that prompted police to look into a gang injunction.

Two Westside gang associates were killed by people associated with the Eastside gang in 2007: Luis Angel Linares, a 15-year-old stabbed to death near Saks Fifth Avenue on State Street, and Lorenzo Carachure, a 16-year-old stabbed to death on San Pascual Street.

Gang-related crimes and violence ebb and flow over time as enforcement efforts ramp up and people are arrested, Siegel said. Assaults and retaliation are common, so much so that police do surveillance at funerals for known gang members or associates.

After the funeral for Carachure, detectives spotted Westside gang members passing objects between them that looked like gloves and duct tape. Police pulled over their car a few blocks from the church and found gloves and weapons — knives and other stabbing implements — with the handles wrapped in tape, Siegel testified.

Most of Assistant District Attorney Hilary Dozer’s questions focused on the behavior and culture of turf gangs that claim territory with graffiti, crimes and nuisance activity.

The city is trying to make four “safety zones” with the gang injunction: the Westside neighborhood, Eastside neighborhood, parks all over the city, and a special-event zone along the waterfront because of past gang-related assaults during the Fourth of July and Old Spanish Days celebrations. Gang members will also meet outside their territories to avoid detection by law enforcement, which is the reason for the park “zone” that includes areas all over the city, Siegel said.

He also talked a little about recruitment, which is one of the things police hope to impede with the injunction. There are local gang cliques with men and women, but boys are typically recruited in junior high school, at ages 11 to 13, and can be harassed on their way to and from school, Siegel testified. Some are pressured to join and others are drawn to the gang lifestyle to belong to a larger group, get protection from other gangs when they travel across town, or find allure in the notoriety, he said.

Around 2005, gangs started using MySpace “almost like a form of advertising” as a place to brag about crimes the gang committed and post pictures of members displaying gang signs, he said.

Witness and victim intimidation is another major accusation against Santa Barbara gangs in this injunction process. Police say victims of robbery or other crimes often want anonymity to avoid retaliation.

The leaders and membership of local gangs are constantly changing and they’re a more loose-knit group compared to the organized structure of the Mexican Mafia and Sureños, which are moneymaking enterprises, Siegel said.

Since about 2008, there has been a growing influence of the Mexican Mafia and Sureños in Santa Barbara, Siegel said. The Sureños are a group of gangs who pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia, an organized crime gang that started in California’s prison and jail systems. Involvement in the Sureños puts members above the local gang turf rivalry, he said.

Police started seeing symbols related to those groups in graffiti and tattoos on local gang members who returned to town after getting out of prison. There has been “taxing” and extortion of local drug dealers and street vendors, since those victims are less likely to report to law enforcement, Siegel said.

His testimony is scheduled to continue on Tuesday in Santa Barbara Superior Court. After he is finished, he’ll be cross-examined by the defense attorneys who are representing individual clients and arguing against a gang injunction.

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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