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Gang Injunction Disagreements
updated: Apr 21, 2014, 9:00 PM

By Brandon Morse, New Republicans

Recently there has been much renewed public interest in Santa Barbara relating to the Gang Injunction. Several City Council Members have written editorials reflecting their support or opposition of the Injunction, the local Chamber of Commerce hosted a discussion and the Santa Barbara Realtors Association publicly voted to oppose its implementation. When I wrote my first op-ed on the issue, I warned against arguments that relied heavily on pathos rhetoric to address the issue of at risk youth in Santa Barbara.

First I would like to start by saying that I have the highest respect for Mr. Frank Hotchkiss in his capacity as a City Council member. I would like to applaud the fact he has been willing to present his position in a public forum for discussion and clarification. For the most part the pro injunction position has been defended by a minority group of Democrats and Sharon Byrn. Having the opportunity to respond to a conservative voice is a welcoming change of pace. While Mr. Hotchkiss and I may agree on most approaches on policy, he and I fundamentally disagree on the Gang Injunction.

When Mr. Hotchkiss declares "I can think of 5,272 reasons to support the Civil Gang Injunction: That's the number of children from fourth through eighth grade in our local public schools… susceptible to forcible gang recruitment" (2014), it is easy to lose the fact that these are also 5,272 reasons to oppose the Gang Injunction. Often it has been said relating to the Gang injunction that this is an attempt to gain new tools for the police to address the youth violence in Santa Barbara. It has also been said that when your favored tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail after a while.

The idea that the injunction will help "everyone" in the proposed "safety zones" is a nice thought, but thoughtful analysis questions the claim. The Realtors Association opposed the injunction, presumably because of the impact declaring a large section of the city a perpetual nuisance would have on property values. The claim is that the injunction will only cover 30 individuals, around 26 of which are either in jail serving a long sentence or have chosen to get a legitimate job, go to school, etc.

If the proposed ‘Civil Gang Injunction' (violation of which is a misdemeanor charge which can be added as an enhancement alone which could include incarceration) is only going to affect the behavior of 4 individuals, why is it that traditional policing cannot solve? On March 18, 2014, Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez repeatedly praised the vigilance and hard work of his officers as being a key reason why crime rates have steadily been on the decline. He also explained that the concern of "aggressive panhandlers on state street" have become the new biggest issue for the City to focus on.

Of course, considering the Gang Injunction has not been implemented, some found it rather strange that he has chosen to take a knee at the end of the game. On May 5th the Honorable Judge Colene Stern will determine the necessity of implementing an injunction in Santa Barbara. Taking the Constitutional questions to the side which I have and continue to voice, one should question if the environment in Santa Barbara raises to the need of an injunction. If it does rise to an ‘urban warzone' as described in controlling case law as described in Acuna (1997), is there no city in California that will be spared the need of an injunction in one form or another?

To the point Mr. Hotchkiss raises that "Sixteen (16) people have been killed since the early 1990s in gang-related killings. Some weren't even gang members but innocent bystanders" (2014), it is important not to minimize this loss of life. Of course even one unnecessary death is a tragic loss, but we also need to caution against implementing these kinds of draconian policies in a knee jerk reaction. Sixteen deaths over the course of 24 years hardly seems to rise to the definition of a ‘urban warzone' in which people are being robbed, murdered, extorted and more on a regular basis over between 30-40 % of the city. If traditional tactics have been as effective as Mr. Sanchez claims, one would think we could continue to do great things with our youth without wasting resources on the Injunction.

I disagree that the approval of the injunction will send a clear message except the city is willing to sacrifice millions of dollars to further a policy that has had much public opposition. My favorite statement Mr. Hotchkiss makes is that "in fact the city hasn't budgeted one extra dollar to this effort. Time and effort spent are part of the daily tasks of police and the city attorney" (2014). The idea being that if there was not a Gang Injunction to worry about the police and city attorney would not have anything else to work on. To the contrary, had the police and city attorney not had to focus on the Gang Injunction, which I believe will ultimately fail on appeal if not on its merits, crime may have been reduced beyond the 30% reported.

Typically the Republican Party prides itself on being champions of limited government and fiscal responsibility. Specifically, santabarbaragop.org explains that "Republicans believe in freedom, that free people are those who take personal responsibility for their affairs and are therefore capable and productive enough to provide for themselves and family minus government interference." I tend to agree with this statement and believe that asking the government to interfere in otherwise constitutionally protected behavior, like appearing in public, does not adhere to this principle. Finally, the website explains "Republicans, like most of us, believe people are mostly sensible about their lives while Democrat leadership thinks people generally need government guidance in their personal affairs."

We will continue to object not only to the proposed Gang Injunction, but all policies which threaten Liberty.


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