Social worker Luann Rocha has spent more than a decade teaching poor children in Oxnard, Ca.’s Colonia neighborhood. the Los Angeles Times says that as co-founder of the youth learning center El Centrito de la Colonia, Rocha has seen at-risk youngsters avoid gang life by embracing the joys of education. Instead of pursuing an anti-gang injunction, as Oxnard police are doing against the Colonia Chiques, Rocha suggests the costs of that effort would be better spent on computer labs.
As law enforcement officials seek to broaden their power to crack down on gang members, Rocha and others are objecting. Under the injunction, gang members could be arrested on misdemeanor charges for socializing together or wearing Dallas Cowboys attire within the boundaries of a 6.6-mile “safety zone.”
Denis O’Leary, a member of the Oxnard Elementary School District board, worries the injunction is vague and potentially discriminatory. So far, police have named only 36 of the hundreds of Chiques who could be affected. “I support the Police Department,” O’Leary said, “but the way this injunction reads, they could arbitrarily decide that a student fits the profile of a gang member and cite them for violating the injunction just for being at recess.” More than a dozen elementary and high schools are within the proposed safety zone, which would cover about half the populated area of the city.
Police Chief Art Lopez said officers would be required to serve a gang member with a copy of the injunction before any citations could be issued or arrests made. Any violations of the injunction would have to occur in a public area within the safety zone.