LTE- Gang Injunction
In 2011 Police Chief Sanchez, along with Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, filed a civil legal action against 30 Santa Barbara residents who are allegedly members of the Santa Barbara Eastside and Westside gangs. The injunction proposed that these individuals not be allowed in certain parts of Santa Barbara, which they refer to as “safety zones.” The rationale behind the gang injunction is to decrease criminal activity by preventing these individuals from associating with each other in the safety zones, wearing certain types of clothing, possessing weapons, using drugs or alcohol and recruiting for their gang in the safety zones. In addition, these 30 individuals would have to sign a legal document with the city attorney in which they formally surrender their affiliation with their gang.
In theory this injunction would decrease the gang activity in Santa Barbara, however, there are many problems with the gang injunction. One of the biggest concerns about the gang injunction is that there has been little to no transparency; there have not been any public hearings by the Santa Barbara City Council. The public is deliberately being excluded despite the fact that the injunction would have a great impact on the Santa Barbara residents and family.
Another problem with the gang injunction is the people who are on the list, which are added solely based on subjective police discretion. A few of the individuals on the list have been able to turn their lives around, including some who are currently attending Santa Barbara City College. If the proposed gang injunction goes into effect these individuals would no longer be able to attend SBCC because it is part of the safety zones, which they would not be allowed in. This is problematic and counterproductive because the point of the gang injunction is to reduce criminal activity, however, banning them from SBCC would do nothing to keep these alleged gang members off of the streets. Instead of preventing these individuals from getting an education they should be encouraged to get educated. In addition, some of the people on the list are currently in prison, so there is something to be said about why these people were even placed on the list if they currently cannot go to the safety zones. Perhaps the answer to this question could reveal a hidden agenda. Proponents of the gang injunction are taking advantage of this vulnerable population and attacking them to make it seem like they have control over the crime in Santa Barbara.
Lastly, the gang injunction would infringe upon the basic civil rights of the 30 individuals on the list and their families. People should not be told where they can and cannot go especially when some of the people were unjustly placed on the list. In addition, the gang injunction promotes ethnic profiling. Law enforcement is basing their decision to place people on the list based on the individual’s race or ethnicity.
It has been estimated that the gang injunction has already cost over $500,000 in court filings and proceedings, and it has not even been implemented yet. Instead of spending all of this money on court filings and proceedings, Santa Barbara should be investing in gang prevention and intervention programs. By doing so, Santa Barbara could unite and work in cooperation with various agencies, schools, communities and recreational programs to provide alternatives to gang involvement.
On Tuesday, May 14 the Santa Barbara City Council will be addressing the gang injunction, and it is important for people to get involved and voice their opinions because of the impact the injunction will have on the Santa Barbara community. Someone needs to be a stop on this injunction, which promotes ethnic profiling and criminalization of people of color living in the Santa Barbara community.
Brenda Maldonado is a UCSB alumna and is currently a graduate student at USC’s School of Social Work.