Information distorted to promote injunction
By Nicolas M. Crisosto
August 15, 2004
The Colonia Civil Rights Coalition is as concerned as anyone else about gang violence, but before the city resorts to an injunction, we must honestly ask whether spending money and city resources in that manner will solve the problem.
The Oxnard Police Department already receives more than one-third of the city budget and, on June 8, the City Council approved $1.2 million in additional funds. All this, while in late March, the police and district attorney began claiming that tens of thousands of city residents were under constant attack by gang members.
However, according to the Oxnard Police Department’s own 2001-2002 Annual Report, “Violent crime in Oxnard has dropped by more than 50 percent since 1992.”
In that report, the Oxnard Police Department also wrote, “Oxnard is safe. Oxnard is safer than most popular tourist destinations across the country, including Orlando, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Scottsdale.”
Since the Oxnard Police Department statistics do not match the department’s latest description of life in Oxnard, we consulted with experts like Alex Alonso, a doctoral candidate from the University of Southern California studying gang injunctions. After examining his work and reading the legal declarations provided by the Oxnard Police Department officers, we are convinced that in 11 years, Colonia Chiques were responsible for four of the 39 homicides attributed to them by Oxnard Police Department. Why the need for such a huge civil injunction to focus on this one gang and not the roots of the violence?
Mr. Alonso’s research exposes the reasons for this civil injunction: It will benefit specific developers in downtown Oxnard and pave the way for the further gentrification of La Colonia. Other communities have already experienced this cycle. First a gang injunction, then a Staples Center, then the working-class community can no longer afford to live in their own neighborhoods. Is this our city’s idea of improving our quality of life?
Our direct contact with community members living in the “gang zone” contradicts the characterization that people are intimidated by this gang.
We believe the issue of violence in our community is so serious that the Oxnard Police Department and City Council should provide accurate information and involve community members every step of the way instead of exaggerating and expecting people who live, work and care about this community to accept inflammatory propaganda without question.
The Oxnard Police Department should not be providing distorted information and spreading hysteria in order to profit from additional funding. If there has been a significant change in the crime rate, it cannot solely be correlated with the announcement of the civil injunction, but this is what the Oxnard Police Department wants the community to believe.
The incredible community opposition to the civil injunction motivates us to continue our work. More than 200 community members living within the “gang zone” have signed sworn, legal declarations opposing this civil injunction. Community members write that they are more concerned about increasing access to recreational and educational opportunities like community pools, libraries and parks than increasing police power.
These residents are extremely grateful for the efforts of the Colonia Civil Rights Coalition, the Oxnard College KEYS program at the Cafe on A, the Committee on Raza Rights, and all the other organizations and individuals from all throughout Ventura County working to lower the crime rate by providing nonpunitive solutions in the Oxnard community.
This is an incredible story about the failure of the civil injunction, wasting our tax dollars without community input, and points to the need for community involvement when planning broad policy changes.
As community members, educators and activists, we will continue monitoring the activities of the Oxnard Police Department while working for solutions, rooted in community involvement, to all forms of crime and violence against residents of Oxnard and Ventura County. We will, of course, continue to protect the civil rights of fellow residents.
Please join us by supporting the legal defense fund. Call 672-4131 for information about how to get involved or to report police misconduct or other violations of civil rights.
We look forward to the time when, as Police Chief Lopez writes in his open letter to Oxnard residents (http://www.oxnardpd.org), police and city officials will truly “recognize the importance of community involvement in the reduction of crime and disorder, the enhancement of quality of life, and the safety of our officers and our citizens.”
– Nicolas M. Crisosto, of Oxnard, is a member of the Colonia Civil Rights Coalition, which is fighting the civil gang injunction in Oxnard.
Copyright 2004, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.