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O.C. Gang's Movements Are Limited by Injunction

July 15, 2006|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

With members of a Santa Ana street gang looking on, a judge issued a sweeping court order Friday severely limiting their activity in a neighborhood that law enforcement officials said the gang had terrorized.

The preliminary injunction signed by Orange County Superior Court Judge Daniel Didier and effective immediately marked the first time this legal tool has been used in Orange County. Similar injunctions have been imposed in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Clara counties.

The injunction named 134 alleged members of the Santa Nita gang and the parents of 21 juveniles. Only about 50 people named in the injunction and issued summonses to the hearing showed up, a few wearing ties, others wearing dress shirts and slacks or jeans. Many were accompanied by their parents.

Among the restrictions Didier imposed were a 10 p.m. curfew; no associating in public with known gang members; no drinking in public; and no wearing gang attire.

The injunction applies to a portion of the gang's turf dubbed by the Orange County district attorney's office as the "safety zone." It encompasses about two square miles, roughly from McFadden Avenue north to Trask Avenue, bordered on the west by Harbor Boulevard and on the east by the Santa Ana River. Prosecutors say there are five schools, a park and a golf course in the area.

In 2005, police reported two murders, 15 firearms violations, 12 felony assaults, 28 robberies and 123 stolen vehicles in that zone. Didier said there were people named in the injunction who probably were not gang members. He encouraged them to seek legal advice to clear their names or meet with the district attorney or the Santa Ana city attorney's office to prove their names should not be included.

Richard Quirino, 18, one of those named, appeared at the hearing wearing a dress shirt, dark pants and a tie. He said he had to take time off from his receptionist's job at a mortgage office to attend the hearing, which he called "a lot of drama."

"I'm not a gang member. I've turned my life around. I graduated from high school and got my first job. I'm doing good," said Quirino. "They're labeling people like me because of my past and because they think all bald-headed guys in my neighborhood are gang members.

"My mom and I read the complaint they gave me, and I decided to show up this morning because I know I've done nothing wrong. I don't have a reason for being afraid."

Quirino said he decided to turn his life around while doing four months in Juvenile Hall for probation violations. He said he was released in April.

Membership in the gang is larger than the 134 alleged members named in the injunction, but those on the list are the biggest threats to the community, Assistant Dist. Atty. John Anderson said.

Susan Kang Schroeder, spokeswoman for the district attorney, said authorities targeted the Santa Nita gang because of its growing membership and increasing violence.

But Alternate Public Defender Constance Istratescu said law enforcement officials "painted with too broad a brush" in putting together the injunction.

"This is just unbelievable. Some people who didn't commit a crime were included, and who is or is not a gang member is open only to police discretion. Often, the criteria they used to determine who is a gang member has nothing to do with crime," said Istratescu, who represents a man named in the injunction and is in jail on another matter.

The effectiveness of injunctions has been attacked by critics. ACLU lawyers have argued that an injunction moves the crime problem to a neighboring community, where the restrictions do not apply. The civil rights organization has also complained that some gang members are forced to live with restrictions although they have not been convicted of a crime.

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