More than a dozen community and business leaders sit around a conference room table on a Friday morning to hear a presentation about gang injunctions.
Three former gang-controlled Anaheim neighborhoods now enjoy lower crime and improved quality of life after injunctions prohibited gangsters from congregating, wearing gang-specific clothing and engaging in gang-related activity.
While the news is welcome, members of the Anaheim Police Chief’s Advisory Board pepper police commanders with pointed questions. Business owner Bill Taormina wants to know why the district attorney’s office doesn’t institute a blanket injunction over the entire city.
“What is the obstacle? “ he asks.
Dr. Jose Moreno, a school board member and president of the community group Los Amigos of Orange County, wants to know who determines who makes it on the injunction list.
“What criteria do you use?” he asks.
It’s this diversity of thinking and give-and-take that makes Police Chief John Welter’s advisory board unique and valuable to the department.
“It’s about communication and partnership,” Welter says. “It helps my command staff get perspective and offers an opportunity for discussion. I always appreciate hearing somebody else’s opinion.”
Welter started the board when he became police chief in 2004. It was the first of its kind in Orange County.
The group includes 30 police, business and community leaders and meets monthly. The topics focus mostly on crime prevention. But following the summer’s civil unrest, enhanced community outreach and communication will be a goal for 2013, Welter says.
On Friday, addressing the city’s rising gang violence dominated the agenda.
In the past month, a 14-year-old gang member armed with a .22-caliber handgun was shot and killed by rivals. In a separate incident, two armed gang members, 19 and 22, were also shot and killed by rival gang members. So far this year, officers have responded to 100 gang-related major assaults, and have been involved in three shootings with armed gang member suspects.
Most recently, a 63-year-old man was beaten because he didn’t want to pay gang extortion money. “In some neighborhoods, they are taxing food truck operators and others,” Sgt. Juan Reveles said.
The injunctions are an intervention tool prosecutors and police use to combat violent gang members and violence.
Anaheim’s first injunction came in the Mountain View/Wakefield/Leatrice neighborhood in 2007. In the five years since the injunction, felony assaults in the “injunction zone” are down 45 percent; robbery is down 74 percent and gang-related calls are down 75 percent. The results are similar in the other two neighborhoods, known as Hermosa Village and the Glen/Neighbors neighborhood.
“It’s making a dramatic impact,” Reveles said.
The department is considering injunctions in other gang-infested neighborhoods.
Although not all his questions were answered at Friday’s meeting, Los Amigos’ Moreno said he finds participating valuable. The department listens to his input, and he appreciates better understanding its perspective, as well.
He says he wishes more average citizens could participate in the dialogue – a sentiment echoed by others, including Welter.
“It’s absolutely worth my time,” Moreno says. “It’s an opportunity to build relationships with people who can make a difference.”
Alison Edwards, deputy director of the OC Human Relations Commission, has served on the board for five years. The board has served the community and the police department well, she says.
“The police department is open to feedback and is very collaborative,” she says.
Do you have a comment for the police department? Please email Sgt. Robert Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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