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Santa Ana Acts to Tighten Control of Cyber Cafes

July 17, 2002|JENNIFER MENA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Ana is curtailing the hours that cyber cafes can operate and requiring owners to use surveillance cameras in an effort to prevent violence.

The ordinance passed by the City Council on Monday night comes just weeks after Garden Grove tightened its laws regulating similar businesses that rent computers, often to young people who play computer games and chat with friends online. One young man was killed June 8 in Garden Grove after leaving a cyber cafe.

While Santa Ana's four cyber cafes have generated noise and loitering, no major crimes have been reported. Santa Ana Police Sgt. Baltazar De La Riva said the city wanted to be proactive and to cover businesses not regulated by current ordinances.

"There's enough indication of possible problems that we wanted to get on it," City Manager David Ream said Tuesday.

No opposition has surfaced so far among local club owners, contrary to what has occurred in Garden Grove.

"We have no problems with this," said David Hong, manager of cyber cafe 3D PC in west Santa Ana. "We were going to close around 10 p.m. anyway. We did have some problems with kids fighting, but it wasn't anything."

The new ordinance, which took effect Tuesday, requires cyber cafes to close by 10 p.m., close to minors by 8 p.m. and to install surveillance cameras. The measure will be evaluated for 45 days, and then be retooled if needed. The council would vote again on the ordinance in 45 days.

Santa Ana's action comes a week after Garden Grove required cafes to close at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at midnight Friday and Saturday. Minors are not allowed after 8 p.m. Previously, cafes could stay open until 2 a.m. Now they need surveillance cameras and security guards at night.

Garden Grove's 19 cyber cafe owners are considering legal challenges. "This is a free country and we are responsible businessmen," said John Pham, owner of cafe Xtreme PC. "The problem is not the cyber cafes; it is gangs. The city should work on that problem and let us do business."

But Garden Grove Mayor Bruce Broadwater said, "We have a right to enforce our laws. We did have a shooting here. We enforce liquor laws, laws at pool halls too."

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