Result of injunction: Crime is way down No one has right to murder, assault
By Art L. Lopez, firstname.lastname@example.org
November 28, 2004
Nearly eight months have passed since District Attorney Greg Totten and I announced the filing of a civil injunction against the most violent street gang in Ventura County. Nearly six months have passed since Judge Fred Bysshe issued the injunction on a preliminary basis and we are very optimistic the injunction will be made permanent in early 2005.
This civil injunction is a new enforcement strategy in Ventura County, but certainly not new in other parts of the state. The California Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of these injunctions. Clearly, our highest court does not contend that the injunction is a violation of the rights of the gang members under the injunction.
No one has the right to murder, rob and assault other people and yet, since 2001, this group of individuals has committed hundreds of these crimes. Since 1992, they have been implicated in 39 homicides — both as suspects and victims. This gang injunction could very well save the lives of many members of this gang!
We certainly did not pursue this injunction lightly or without great thought and consideration. It came down to a responsibility to protect Ventura County residents from this band of predators.
The results thus far have been staggering. Violent crime in the safety zone involving gang members has dropped more than 80 percent. There has not been a single homicide involving the gang in the safety zone since the injunction was proposed back in March.
Officers report that the streets have never been this quiet and that most gang members have gone into hiding. In fact, our officers report that gang activity by all gangs throughout the city has fallen dramatically — a wonderful side benefit we did not expect with this injunction.
Officers do not enforce the injunction against anyone who has not been duly served — there are no surprises. People not under the injunction continue to be free to congregate in public, wear any type of clothing they desire, and even associate with gang members who are under the injunction.
Injunctions are effective and do curb gang violence. People living in the areas where injunctions are in place often express a feeling of relief and enjoy a newfound sense of safety and well-being. People have the right to feel safe and should not be subject to the criminal actions of 1 percent of a population!
Change criminal behavior
More than 99.5 percent of Oxnard residents will not be under the authority of this injunction in any way. Only members of this particular gang will be adversely affected. Their actions have caused this to happen and they are free to change their behavior. If they do, then they can get out from under the prohibitions outlined in the injunction. It’s as simple as that: Change your criminal behavior and you can be free of the injunction.
This injunction is only one small part of our gang-prevention efforts. The injunction focuses on those gang members who continue to act out. There are many other programs available to keep kids out of gangs. The prevention and intervention programs must and will continue in place. This injunction is simply a tool to combat those worst of the worst.
Our Police Activities League program, the many afterschool programs, the Gang Violence Suppression program, our weed and seed program, parenting programs, community courts, etc., to name just a few of the many programs out there for our youth, will all continue in their efforts to curb gang violence and the root causes of such societal ills.
I am very pleased that in recent months the community has stepped up to consider enhancing and broadening those programs that may be able to help stem gang violence. I am not, however, willing to set aside this injunction and wait the time it will take for these prevention programs to show success. That is a gamble we cannot afford to take.
We need the injunction fully in place until these programs have proved themselves to be viable and successful in the war against gang violence.
Every challenge defeated
Every single challenge to the Oxnard injunction has been defeated in court. Juries and judges have certainly understood the seriousness of the problem and have acted accordingly in every case that has come before them involving a gang member and injunction issues.
Keep in mind that the injunction will give gang members an excuse to leave the gang — something that can be very difficult to do. It will give officers the tools to stop these gang members before they commit their cowardly acts of violence. They act in groups, not as individuals, to carry out their deeds — typically after drinking or using drugs to get up their “courage.” By preventing these individuals from gathering in groups, we believe we can curb the violence.
This injunction in no way negatively affects law-abiding residents, nor does it focus on any particular ethnicity or age group. It simply aims to change the illegal behavior of these predators, before they can prey on innocent people.
Sadly, there has been a campaign of misinformation about the proposed injunction put forth by a small handful of people, mostly from outside the city. It is unclear if this is intentional on their part or simply reflects ignorance about what a gang injunction really does. I believe these people are missing the point. The injunction is not about illegal immigration, downtown movie theaters, returning California to Mexico, “raza rights” or the cost of incarcerating a prisoner in California.
The gang injunction should not be used by these opponents as a vehicle to further these types of issues. The issue at hand is simply the safety of the residents I am sworn to protect.
What about the victims?
I am also deeply disappointed that these opponents have cast aside the rights and suffering of the victims of these gang crimes. I have yet to see one word of concern from these individuals about the victims of gang crime. Imagine you or a loved one driving home from grocery shopping only to be struck by a stray bullet fired by one gang member at another on a busy street. Myrna Littell, of Oxnard, certainly knows firsthand what it’s like as she fell victim to such an attack earlier this year. Mrs. Littell struggled for her life and will survive her wounds, but the impact on her and her family has been life-changing.
To hear claims that the Police Department is exaggerating the gang problem is ridiculous and certainly an insult to not only the dedicated men and women of this Police Department but truly a slap in the face for the hundreds of thousands of people who have fallen victim to this gang!
Frankly, I resent individuals from Ojai and Newbury Park who write letters to The Star pontificating about civil rights and how Oxnard does not need this injunction. They use obscure anecdotal references to make their case.
I believe the people of Oxnard deserve a safe environment and this injunction has clearly made a huge difference.
The strategy utilized by opponents of the injunction of minimizing the gang problem is reckless and certainly won’t make the problem go away. We cannot bury our head in the sand and say, “It’s really not that bad, the cops are making a big deal out of nothing.” For goodness sake, this injunction is simply about keeping the residents of this city safe.
I certainly appreciate the overwhelming support we have received from hundreds of Oxnard residents who have contacted me and my staff to say enough is enough and the time has come to take dramatic action to curb this cancer in our city.
I absolutely stand firm in support of this injunction and know the overwhelming majority of Oxnard residents feel the same.
– Art L. Lopez is chief of police in Oxnard. His e-mail address is