Judge grants preliminary Vista gang injunction
July 1, 2005
By: JO MORELAND – Staff Writer
VISTA —- It took about five minutes Friday morning for a Superior Court judge to grant a preliminary gang injunction against 89 alleged members of a large Vista street gang.
The city’s first such injunction, targeting the Vista Home Boys, is also the largest out of 12 so far through the District Attorney’s office in San Diego County —- four each in Oceanside and San Diego, two in Escondido, and one in San Marcos.
The Vista order, approved by Vista Judge Timothy M. Casserly, restricts the activities of almost a third of the alleged members of the gang, ages 14 to 30, in three areas of the city.
Five girls or young women were included as part of the gang, described by authorities as a longtime Latino street gang with almost 300 members. The defendants include a 17-year-old girl who just had a baby with her boyfriend, an alleged gang member who is currently in jail.
After the hearing, officials at a district attorney’s press conference hailed the injunction as historic, and another tool to help stop gang-related crime and make Vista safer.
“It’s been safer since we went out and served the gang with the paperwork (June 7),” said Capt. Rob Ahern, commander of the Vista Sheriff’s Station.
Sheriff’s Detective Dave Brannan said gang-related violent crime has dramatically declined since then and fewer gang members have been hanging out in the city.
The American Civil Liberties Union and others have criticized gang injunctions as targeting poor people who lose personal freedoms because they can’t afford attorneys to defend themselves. Appeals courts have ruled the injunctions don’t violate civil rights and that the law doesn’t allow court-appointed attorneys in such cases.
Two of three of the alleged gang members who were at the Vista Courthouse hearing denied later that they are in the gang. They and their relatives said officials are targeting Latinos.
Surrounded by reporters in a courthouse hallway, 27-year-old Oscar Valdez of Vista, who is named in the injunction, said that he got out of the gangs 10 years ago, that he has no record of violent crimes and he now has a job.
“I don’t belong on this list, period,” said Valdez, listed as “Tiny.” “I’m going to fight this.”
Brannan said later that Valdez is an active gang member, and that Valdez has recently had gang members at his home.
“Many of the individuals named in the injunction have violent histories,” Brannan said. “Some of them are more of a nuisance.”
A key restriction in the injunction prohibits gang members from associating with other gang members within three designated “Safety Zones:”
- Brengle Terrace Park;
- an area bordered by South Santa Fe Avenue, Pala Vista Drive and the North County Transit District railroad tracks;
- parts of a large area around North Santa Fe Avenue that stretches north of Gail Drive, south to Lado de Loma Drive, west to the railroad tracks east of North Melrose Drive, and east to the intersection of Townside Drive and East Vista Way.”Those safety zones are where the most crimes were committed, and there was the most contact with gang members,” Brannan said.
The injunction also forbids the defendants from activities in the target areas that are already illegal, including drinking alcohol or using drugs in public, possessing weapons or burglary tools, fighting, using gang hand signs or wearing gang clothing, trespassing, graffiti, violating curfew, or littering.
“If they’re not a gang member, this means nothing,” Deputy District Attorney Terri Perez said. “It’s not going to affect their lives.”
She said violation of the order is a misdemeanor, punishable by probation or up to six months in jail.
At least 79 defendants were notified of the injunction and included in Friday’s order, the deputy district attorney said. Perez said the other 10 will be notified, and all the defendants will get a copy of the order.
Casserly set a Sept. 30 trial date to determine whether the injunction should be made permanent.
Noting that he had not received any written declarations against the allegations, the judge found that the defendants had engaged in “numerous activities which constitute a public nuisance.”
Residents in the target areas would continue to be harmed if the injunction wasn’t issued, Casserly said.
Contact staff writer Jo Moreland at (760) 740-3524 or firstname.lastname@example.org.