Phoenix Loses Gang Battle in Court Ruling
By Judi Villa, The Arizona Republic
June 7, 2000
The Eastside Los Cuatro Milpas gang can continue to whistle when police approach, play loud music and hang out together without fear of getting thrown into jail or slapped with hefty fines.
Phoenix failed to prove that the civil injunction it sought to curb the gang’s activities was the only means available to control the gang, according to a court ruling. Four of the 14 gang suspects named in the injunction — Tomas Padilla, Ruben Gonzales, Frank Moraga and Margarito Rodarte — fought the allegations to victory in court.
Judge David Talamante wrote in the ruling made public Tuesday that “the evidence submitted does not support a conclusion that they constitute a public nuisance in the ‘target area’ ” bordered by Buckeye Road, the Maricopa Freeway, Seventh and 16th streets.
The city also failed to prove that there would be “irreparable harm” suffered if the injunction weren’t granted, Talamante wrote.
Phoenix was the first Arizona city to attempt to use the civil injunction to control gang activity. It would have banned gang members from congregating in public view and engaging in a variety of other activities not normally considered criminal.
Similar injunctions have been upheld by the California Supreme Court, despite claims that they trample on civil rights.
Phoenix police gang unit Detective Jeffrey Nolder predicted Tuesday that the target area, which has been quieter since notice of the injunction was served in October, will become a hotbed again now that the gang is out of the limelight.
“The Phoenix Police Department is not going to pack up their bags and leave the neighborhood,” Nolder said. “We’re still going to be down there like we’ve always been.”
Nearly 50 police reports outlined armed robberies, drive-by shootings, aggravated assault, kidnapping, drug use, threats, burglaries, vandalism and gang warfare in the target area.
Still, “the record presented leads the court to conclude that those concerns may be adequately addressed through established law enforcement tools,” Talamante wrote.
The case cannot be refiled.