Oxnard Police, DA consider second gang injunction
By Charles Levin, and Angelica Martinez
July 15, 2005
Oxnard Police and Ventura County prosecutors are considering seeking a second gang injunction in the city, citing a strong drop in violent crime after they brought a similar legal action last year.
During a meeting with local pastors earlier this week, District Attorney Greg Totten discussed the possibility of seeking an injunction against the city’s Southside Chiques gang, citing the success of the injunction against the larger Colonia Chiques.
Violent, gang-related crimes have dropped 80 percent in a 6.6- square-mile safety zone in and around the city’s La Colonia neighborhood since a Ventura County Superior Court judge approved a temporary injunction against the Colonia Chiques in March 2004, Totten said. Last month, the same judge later made the injunction permanent.
“Anecdotally, we have seen a dramatic decline in criminal behavior pretty much across the board,” Totten said after the meeting. “I can’t put a number to it, but there’s no question that in our view … the Colonia Chiques has been weakened.”
Neither he nor police could could provide specific figures.
Under the injunction, alleged Chiques members who are served cannot associate with other members, wear Dallas Cowboys attire, stay out past 10 p.m., or engage in other gang- related activities in the “safety zone” around Oxnard’s La Colonia neighborhood. Violators face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Investigators from both offices are now looking at whether the same enforcement tool will work on the Southside gang, a Colonia. With 300 members, Southside is the second largest gang in Oxnard, claiming the south end of the city and southern Port Hueneme. The gang originated in Port Hueneme and has evolved through the years.
Oxnard Police Chief John Crombach stressed it would take some time — maybe several months — before authorities seek an injunction.
“This is very preliminary,” he said.
Officials in both agencies will soon begin studying the gang’s criminal activity. Authorities will speak with community members first about any concerns before going to court, Crombach said. It’s unclear if a second injunction would use similar restrictions as the one imposed on the Colonia gang, he said.
Oxnard Police Officer Neail Holland stressed that authorities would weigh several criteria before seeking a second injunction. He didn’t elaborate but noted the department isn’t going down a list of gangs looking for whom to target.
Since June 1, Oxnard Police have served 72 Colonia Chiques members and arrested five for violating the injunction, Holland said.
City Manager Ed Sotelo said he would endorse another injunction “100 percent” if police and prosecutors deem it necessary. He acknowledged a second injunction might send the message that Oxnard is riddled with crime. But with the first one a proven success, the benefits of lowered crime far outweigh any stigma, Sotelo said.
Mayor Tom Holden also said he would support an injunction if Crombach recommended it. But the mayor stressed that an injunction was one tool of many to stem gang violence. Prevention and intervention programs are also critical.
An official with the Public Defender’s Office, which defended the Colonia Chiques during the court battle over the first injunction, declined comment on an action against the Southside Chiques.
“We’ll wait and see what they’re proposing and make a decision at that time,” said Duane Dammeyer, assistant public defender.
The office plans to appeal the judgement making the injunction permanent, saying it had defects, Dammeyer said.
Armando Vazquez, owner of Oxnard’s Café on A Street, said he was disappointed to hear that authorities were considering another injunction. The legal actions border on violating constitutional rights, and intervention is a better solution anyway, said Vazquez, executive director of Keys to Empower Youth in the System, a nonprofit that works with gang members.
“It’s going to be like shooting fish in a barrel,” he said. “The founding fathers never imagined that.”
Some residents in south Oxnard, however, said they welcomed an injunction if police saw success with the first one.
“Gangs have grown out of control,” Juan Gallegos, 72, said. “Laws weren’t strong enough, and now they (gangs) are how they are. When I first came here in 1952, you didn’t hear of gangs the way you do now. They need to be gotten rid of.”