Oxnard streets are getting safer
Injunctions prove successful as gang members are removed from lists
By Shane Cohn 07/12/2012
The City of Oxnard gang injunction seems to be working.
On Monday, July 10, the Oxnard Police Department and the Ventura County District Attorney’s office announced the removal of 81 named individuals from the city’s gang injunction lists.
The gang injunctions (civil lawsuits against gangs and their members) were issued in 2005 and 2006 as a way to mitigate crimes committed by two area gangs — the Colonia Chiques and Southside Chiques, who are believed to be responsible for more than 3,000 crimes in the city.
With 81 names removed, the Colonia injunction now has 276 active gang members and the Southside injuction has 66.
Police said removing the individuals from the lists means they are no longer affiliated with gang lifestyle, and background checks will no longer associate their names with current gang activity. Civic leaders say the injunctions have been successful.
“The big issue with the gang injunction was, we wanted to make sure we didn’t lock people into this for perpetuity, and they’d forever be stuck in this thing,” said Oxnard City Councilman and former Oxnard Assistant Chief of Police Bryan MacDonald. “It was built in there that if people decided to make a change for themselves and be a member of society, they can do it.”
The gang injunctions only apply to gang members in “safety zones,” which are specific geographic areas known for criminal activity involving the Colonia Chiques and Southside Chiques, both turf-oriented gangs. Both gangs engage in violent and serious felonies among rival gangs and innocent community members, according to police.
The Colonia Chiques have about 1,000 members and typically dress in Dallas Cowboys attire. The Southside Chiques have about 500 members and represent themselves in Chicago White Sox attire.
The highlighted area shows the Colonia Chiques gang injunction safety zone.
The injunctions allows police to arrest known associates for engaging in a number of gang-related activities ranging from possessing weapons to wearing gang clothing, using gang gestures and being out past curfew in the safety zones.
Figures show that serious gang assault crimes have dropped 43 percent since 2009-2011, and gang related homicide has dropped about 80 percent during the same time frame. But police say the community living in the safety zones has been the real benefactor of the injunction.
“The people who we interact with in these areas have said to police officers that they can now allow their kids to play outside,” said Oxnard’s Public Information Officer Mónica Muñoz. “I’ve met people who say that a few years ago they weren’t able to walk down the street and now it’s different.”
The injunction list will now be assessed annually, said Sgt. Christopher Williams, who works for the violent crimes unit. But Williams also pointed out that the injunction isn’t the sole reason for the decrease in the city’s gang activity. Nearly $800,000 from Operation PeaceWorks, which has been a four-year, grant-funded California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention project (CalGRIP), helped fund street outreach workers and a number of city gang prevention and intervention programs that have worked cohesively to reduce gang activity.
“Our goal when we first initiated the gang injunctions,” explained Williams, “wasn’t that it was going to be a cure-all to alleviate our problems. We knew we had to attack it on all fronts.”