FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 8, 2014
Santa Ana Police Department
*This is the second gang injunction in the City of Santa Ana
SANTA ANA – A violent Santa Ana criminal street gang have been preliminarily enjoined from terrorizing the community and acting as a public nuisance, marking the 13th injunction to be brought against Orange County gangs and the second in the City of Santa Ana. This injunction is in response to decades of violent crime by this gang and numerous residents pleading with law enforcement to eliminate the gang presence so that they no longer have to live in fear.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Eckermann prepared the injunction on behalf of the Gang Unit of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
“The families and residents in this neighborhood have been terrorized and victimized by this gang’s propensity for violence. Children have been caught in the crossfire of this gang and their rivals, including an innocent 15-year-old girl who was shot while holding her baby brother as her mother installed a car seat,” said District Attorney Tony
Rackauckas. “This community deserves to live free from fear, and we will to use every available legal tool to help them live in peace and free from intimidation and harm.”
“Our main objective is to bring all available resources to bear on criminal street gangs impacting the safety of our community,” said Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas. “This gang injunction will give us a valuable tool in our efforts for a safer Santa Ana.”
WHAT IS AN INJUNCTION?
A gang injunction is a civil order that restricts or prohibits documented gang members from participating in specific acts or activities that may not be inherently criminal within a designated area, or “Safety Zone.” The terms are designed to curb intimidating or harassing behavior. If a member of an enjoined gang violates the terms, he or she
will be arrested and face prosecution. The case may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor for disobeying a court order and the defendant will be placed on gang probation terms or be sent to jail for up to six months.
This injunction names the gang as the defendant. The gang injunction subjects all active, documented members to prohibitive terms including a restriction that prohibits any association between members of the gang. Association includes standing, sitting, walking, driving, bicycling, gathering, or appearing anywhere in public or public view with any known member of the gang (except while at school or in church). The terms also maintain that there can be no intimidation, use or sale of drugs, consuming alcohol in public, guns or dangerous weapons, fighting, trespassing, blocking free passage, gang hand signs, gang clothes, burglary tools, or acting as a lookout. In addition, the gang members must obey curfew and all laws. Graffiti and vandalism are also prohibited as graffiti is often used by the gangs in the Safety Zones as a method to intimidate rival gangs, mark their territory, advertise their most recent activities, dissuade residents from going to the police, and denounce police.
Gang members who are subject to the terms of the injunction include the most active gang members who are welldocumented through personal admission and/or affiliation, association with known gang members, dressing in the style of the gang or having gang tattoos, possessing gang paraphernalia, and/or committing crimes for the benefit of the gang.
SANTA ANA GANG INJUNCTION
The 13th injunction in Orange County is the second to be brought against a Santa Ana criminal street gang. This criminal street gang is a violent, traditional turf-oriented gang that has been active since the 1970s with approximately 100 documented members actively engaged in nuisance and criminal activity.
A 0.39-square mile area makes up the Safety Zone, which is located south of First Street, west of Raitt Street, north of McFadden Avenue, and east of Sullivan Street. The Safety Zone is comprised of mainly single-family and apartment homes and includes two elementary schools, a large community park, and a senior center.
Between January 2010 and April 2014, criminal activity in the Safety Zone resulted in the documentation and/or arrest of gang members for crimes including: two murders, two attempted murders, 22 incidents of gun or dangerous weapon possession, three assaults, 24 drug or paraphernalia violations, eight incidents of graffiti or vandalism tools, 82 incidents of associating with other members of the same criminal street gang, two incidents of intimidation, seven incidents of alcoholic beverages in public, 23 incidents of wearing gang clothing, one residential burglary, 14 incidents of acting as a law enforcement or rival look-out, four curfew violations, four vehicle thefts, three incidents of loitering, and 14 incidents of trespassing.
Additional crimes were committed in the Safety Zone but not documented because many people that live and work in the neighborhood are reluctant to cooperate with police for fear of retaliation from the gang. The graffiti statistics above only reflect cases where a suspect was arrested and do not include the incidents of graffiti for which no suspects have been identified. Between 2011 and 2013, the cost to the City of Santa Ana to remove graffiti in the
0.39 -Square mile Safety Zone was over $250,000.
During the pendency of this case, one of the individuals identified as an active participant of the gang, was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of a rival gang member which occurred within the Safety Zone.
CONCERNS FROM COMMUNITY MEMBERS AS TOLD TO SAPD DETECTIVE
Residents and community members in the Safety Zone told SAPD about the fear and intimidation caused by the gang. Those statements are recounted by SAPD Detective Jeff Launi in a 145-page Expert Declaration regarding the gang injunction. He writes, in part: “People talked about their fear of being outside after dark, especially during warm weather months, because of the gang’s violent activities. … Random incidents of shots being fired in the neighborhood are so common people told me they don’t bother reporting them. Several people expressed concerns for the safety of their children. More than one resident told me they escort their children to and from school and do not let their children outside unsupervised due to the level of gang activity in the area. People told me they live in a state of fear because of the constant criminal activities that take place in the areas where they live and work.” Page 94
“I conducted an interview with a business person who [works for] a private security company. … People will tell him things they will not tell the police about. … Residents have told him they will often be approached by gang members who will demand money as a ‘tax’ for them being allowed to pass through areas of the neighborhood.” Pages 95-96
“I conducted an interview with an individual who works within one of several social service community programs. … My contact said certain social workers and counselors who are part of particular programs frequently conduct client home visits [in the Safety Zone.] When something is going on, the gang members begin whistling. Upon hearing this, residents instinctively go into their apartments. It is not unusual for residents to usher the social workers inside and direct them not to sit near windows or exterior walls for their safety. My contact told me the [social agency] restricts people from [the agency] who engage in home calls from going to [the Safety Zone] after 4:00 p.m. due to safety concerns. ” Pages 99-100
“Based on my knowledge and experience, as well as … conversations I have had with various people who live and work in the Safety Zone, it is clear how severely the gang negatively impacts the community and reduces the quality of life in this area. The gang’s intimidating presence and propensity for involvement in criminal and nuisance activity dramatically interferes with the residents’ rights to peacefully live their daily lives.” Page 100
“From having worked the [gang] neighborhood, I know on any given day, it is not uncommon to find five or more mobile food vending vehicles parked in [the Safety Zone]. It is known some of the food truck operators are or have been victims of extortion, being required to pay a fee or tax to the gang, or to turn over merchandise to be allowed to vend on the street.” Page 102
EXCERPTS FROM EXPERT DECLARATION OF SAPD DETECTIVE
Detective Launi’s Expert Declaration regarding gang behavior and crime states, in part: “Nuisance activities are often the most visible in neighborhoods and have significant effects on the appearance of the neighborhood, property values and the quality of life in a community. A statistical query of the most common nuisance activities routinely committed by active participants of the gang includes loitering for various purposes while blocking sidewalks, streets and alleys, trespassing, graffiti crimes, alcohol violations, various types of disturbances, and littering.” Pages 40 – 41
“From my training and experience, I know gang members seldom assemble for any peaceful purpose. By preventing gang members from associating within their claimed neighborhood, crimes the gang members would be involved in are prevented. Additionally, since the visible presence of gang members often draws rivals seeking to victimize their perceived ‘enemy,’ preventing the association of gang members and active participants protects them from harm while also making the community safer for all residents…. Gang members seldom operate alone. They work together to commit crimes and intimidate their victims, utilizing the theory of strength in numbers.” Page 42
“I have found it difficult, if not impossible, to gain the confidence and/or cooperation of victims, witnesses, and other neighborhood residents who might have information that would further the police investigation. This reluctance to get involved is due to fear of retaliation by the gang if it were to become known the individuals are cooperating with the police. The fear of retaliation is intense in this particular neighborhood.” Page 49
“Graffiti is sometimes referred to as the newspaper of the street and is used for various purposes. Graffiti establishes a gang’s power, status, and control of a neighborhood. Gang graffiti marks territory and serves as a warning to neighborhood residents and other gangs … It is used to intimidate and disrespect rival gangs, the police, and the community. … It may also be … [used] to brag of recent incidents, conquests, and criminal activities.” Page 55
“Gang members use many of the same websites the general public uses, such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Skype, Instagram, and Photobucket. There are many websites, message boards, chat rooms, and even applications created by gang members. Using some of these sites is referred to as, ‘web banging,’ ‘cyber banging,’ ‘net banging,’ and ‘phone banging.’ Some of these sites are places for young people to hang out and are glorified as the ‘Gangsta
Cult.’ These sites typically contain photos, videos, and music.” Page 77
STATUS OF 12 ONGOING INJUNCTIONS
In Orange County there are currently 12 permanent gang injunctions in the cities of Anaheim, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Orange, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, and Stanton. As a result of the injunctions, crime has been significantly reduced in the Safety Zones by as much as 65 percent.
STATEMENTS BY ENJOINED AND FORMER GANG MEMBERS
A 19-year-old enjoined gang member was asked by detectives if he believed the gang injunction had an impact on gang activity. He responded, “The chance of something happening [in the Safety Zone] is less because we are not there. … We are being watched more. We can’t hang around together. For some of us, that is bad.”
A 25-year-old former gang member, who was previously enjoined, was asked if his former gang still existed, he responded, “There’s still, like, a few people. …I’m telling you, like, that gang injunctions – they mess everything up.” When asked if additional police or security presence in the Safety Zone would abate the gang problem, he
responded, “If they want to get rid of [gang members], yeah. I think that’s what happened over there [with the gang injunction.] They got rid of us, and it’s like, dumb, because we all got [gang name] tattoos and stuff like that.”
A former prison gang member, who is currently incarcerated for murder, was asked about the effectiveness of gang injunctions. He wrote, “If gang members cannot display a physical presence, tag on walls to demark their control of an area, intimidate the citizens of the neighborhood or commit crimes in the furtherance of the gang, …
then it diminishes the gang’s control.”
He also explained the impact of prohibiting association of enjoined gang members. “Association, or the ability to congregate, is a visual display of prowess to gang members, the bigger the gang or grouping of gang members the better its ability to inflict violence on opposing gangs or project its dominance within a given area. Most gang crimes are done in groups, in association with other gang members. If you eliminate the gang’s ability to congregate or associate with each other, then you have 50 percent of the gang problem resolved.”
When asked if he believed gang injunctions provided a legitimate excuse for gang members to disassociate from their gangs, he wrote, “Many [gang members] fear reprisals from fellow gang members. By renouncing their gang associations, the gang members become ‘no good’ in the eyes of their peers. This stigma within the Hispanic gang subculture can have dire consequences. But with an injunction, it ‘legitimizes’ a gang member’s choice to disassociate him or herself from the gang. It allows the gang member to maintain their face of ‘gang respectability’ yet consciously and voluntarily participate in the attrition that follows an injunction.”