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Closing arguments were given by plaintiff and defense in the City of Santa Barbara’s proposed gang injunction trial yesterday, the final hearing before Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne issues her decision.
If passed, the injunction would place restrictions on the activities of labeled gang members and affiliates in designated “Safety Zones” throughout Santa Barbara County, prohibiting those named from associating with other gang affiliates, graffitiing, entering school grounds or parks, wearing gang-attire or making gang signs amongst a list of other activities.
Assistant District Attorney Hilary Dozer began the opening portion of closing arguments by restating a request for a permanent injunction based upon “nuisance activity” against the Eastside gang, the Westside gang and 11 named defendants.
Dozer said the injunction is supported by many members of the community.
“We’re here representing the people who live and work and play in these areas,” Dozer said. “These are the silent people who are not here and while some might make the case that a gang injunction is controversial, that simply is not the case.”
According to Dozer, numerous California courts have validated the constitutionality of gang injunctions and any behavior associated with gang activity can constitute a public nuisance, whether violent or not. Dozer said Eastside and Westside gangs have been proven to exist through the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention, or STEP, Act analysis, which takes into account evidence of ongoing associations with three or more members, identifies common signs or symbols engaged in a pattern of criminal street activity and confirms criminal activity is committed by gang members.
Dozer named the defendants and summarized the testimony accrued over the past few days, reviewing video and photo evidence while arguing for the need to place each under the proposed injunction’s restrictions.
“This case isn’t really about prosecution, it’s about this court acting for the benefit of the community, recognizing that individual rights will be affected by the court’s actions,” Dozer said, adding the infringement of individual rights is a “necessary corollary” to any injunction issued by a court of equity.
Looking at a map of the safety zones, Dozer defended the “narrowly-drawn” parameters of each zone around reports of “gang-related or gang-involved” crimes.
“These are rationally-based, narrowly drawn and reflect the actual criminal activity that takes place,” Dozer said.
Dozer concluded by discussing methods of intimidation by the Eastside and Westside gangs and said payments of “rent and taxes” collected by gang members on the streets of Santa Barbara go to “other higher-ups” within Southern California street gangs, which eventually go to Mexican street gangs.
Two defense attorneys representing Augustine Cruz and Francisco Anaya, who were present in court with family members, followed Dozer with a speech in opposition to their client’s inclusion in the injunction.
The trial convened again at 1:30 p.m., when defense attorney Michael Hanley introduced his opposition to the injunction by saying that the city has relied upon “misleading” studies in order to map Safety Zones.
According to Hanley, documents reporting crimes determining the location of Safety Zones were “rife with crimes that are absolutely not associated with gang activity.”
“Why do we have all of these crimes in this exhibit?” Hanley said. “The answer can only be so that we can generate a lot of dots on the map.”
Hanley said methods for future identification of gang-related crimes are “deeply troubling and deeply flawed.” He also said plaintiffs rely on old data and inaccurate portrayals of the seriousness of criminals that would be implicated under the injunction.
Hanley questioned whether the nature of the Eastside and Westside gangs was criminal, if the main activity of these groups was criminal and called the Mexican Mafia connections “fantastical.” The defense asked if the groups were social and cultural or a criminal street gang, or if criminal activity was performed consistently and on a regular basis. He also said the injunction would have no effect on “hardcore” gang members.
According to Hanley, there are a multitude of difficulties in identifying “gang attire” as well as problems with labeling people as members of a gang. He also said the gang injunction is not needed by the community.
“There is no perception of nuisance activity by community members,” Hanley said. “The proposal is meant well. It’s just not well-conceived.”
Outside the courtroom, People Organized for the Defense and Equal Rights of Santa Barbara Youth member Marissa Garcia was passing out shirts with the words “Not in my name” on the front.
“We feel it’s really important for the city to have the judge see that the city isn’t speaking for us,” Garcia said. “If the city is going to speak for the city, well, not in our name.”
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.