Gang-injunction debate continues

ERIC WOOMER (Visalia-Times Delta) | May 17, 2011

An Orosi couple walked into the Tulare County Public Defender’s office Monday in hopes of clearing up questions about gang injunctions they were served last week. Their worries are part of a state-wide debate about a tool the Sheriff’s Department says is vital in the fight against gangs.

A court win for opponents of gang injunctions in Orange County earlier this month was followed by a vote Tuesday night in Oakland to decide whether to continue injunctions in parts of the gang-ridden city.

The outcome of the vote wasn’t available at press time.

A gang injunction is a court order preventing gangs from gathering and participating in activities in certain areas of a community.

As injunctions become a hot topic, some in Tulare County are questioning if they work. For Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Boudreaux, there is no question. “These injunctions have been very successful. Crime rates have dropped and the injunctions are directly impacting crime,” he said.

Crime is indeed down in the last year in Cutler-Orosi. Compared to April 2010, there has been a 46 percent to 52 percent drop in violent crimes, vandalism and assaults with a deadly weapon, the sheriff’s department reports.

There have been no homicides.

But residents still remain concerned with their streets. Some say it’s obvious that known gang members are gathering less often. Others say it’s nice to not see graffiti decorating walls of Cutler-Orosi. But some are skeptical the injunctions are working.

“Wait until school gets out. The kids have a whole summer to get in trouble,” said Robert Padilla, who has worked in Orosi for several years. “Crime isn’t going away, they’re just getting smart and not getting caught.”

Deputy Public Defender William Pernik isn’t surprised some people don’t have faith in the injunctions. He is currently preparing for a civil trial in August to have the injunction in Cutler-Orosi dismissed. There is a status hearing set for July 21.

“We are not surprised to see the people pushing back against gang injunctions,” he said. “Law enforcement agencies have gotten greedy with this law enforcement tool and have pushed it beyond all boundaries of reason. … These injunctions were never meant to apply to entire towns and communities.”

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Image credit: Steve R. Fujimoto

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