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Ogden gang injunction nets 24 arrest cases for violators

Published March 27, 2011 1:01 am

Ogden • Police see positive early results, but the question of constitutionality remains.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Levi Martinez says he's tried to tell his grandson hanging around with the street gang Ogden Trece would lead him into trouble.

But Davy Martinez Jr. couldn't resist being out with other gangsters as part of Trece, the same gang his dad joined as a youngster, Levi Martinez said.

"He's been in prison already a couple of times," Levi Martinez said of his 25-year-old grandson. "I talk to him all the time. It goes in one ear and goes out the other. He might get shot and might get killed."

Davy Martinez Jr. could not be reached for comment, but police say his gang association put his case among 24 arrests for violating Utah's first gang injunction. Designed to cut down on gang crime, the new law makes it a class B misdemeanor for Trece members to gather in public parks, malls and other areas they used to claim as their turf.

Six months after a 2nd District Judge instituted the injunction, Ogden police say their experiment is working.

Trece members used to wear their colors, flash their signs and use other brash gang behavior to intimidate community members from holding picnics at park shelters or from shopping downtown, police said. Of 350 people listed as Trece members or associates in the injunction, about 164 have been served notice, said Ogden police Lt. Scott Conley, who oversees the city's gang unit. And out of those 164, only 17 have been arrested for violating the gang injunction.

"For 164 of them being served, that amount of arrests is kind of amazing. It shows that they are complying with it, which is a good thing," Conley said.

"You can see a lessened degree of gang activity up here," Conley said. "The lack of gang representation through clothing, belts, hats, bandannas … you're not seeing as much of that around the community, and that creates a mindset of being safer because gang members are not as visible."

As police continue to tout progress made on Trece, one of the region's largest and most violent gangs totaling more than 400 members, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union are continuing a court fight to have the injunction issued by 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones in September overturned.

Darcy Goddard, ACLU legal director, said the injunction infringes on constitutional rights. She argues the injunction has been served on people misidentified as gang members and that those served weren't given proper notice to fight the allegations against them, yet now must comply.

"What you have is a civil court order that criminalizes noncriminal conduct and then applies criminal sanctions for violating it," Goddard said.

How the injunction works • Beyond banning Trece members from associating in an area that includes most of Ogden, the injunction goes further to set a curfew and prohibit them from carrying guns and graffiti tools in public. Violations are punishable by as much as six months in jail.

Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner cleared the way for a gang injunction by introducing successful legislation that prohibited gang loitering in Ogden. The Police Department commonly received complaints at public parks and the bankruptcy of a downtown Ogden mall is blamed in part because of the perception the facility was overrun by gangsters, Greiner said.

"A city park would be rented out to people who wanted to come for picnics and reunions. We'd have instances where these gangs would say, 'We're going to play soccer.' And they'd be loud and boisterous to intimidate people until they left," Greiner said.

"Now, they know that public places are where they are going to get themselves in trouble."

Before a person is labeled as a gang member, police must identify at least two gang indicators — such as tattoos and gang-related clothing or an admission from a gang member that they are part of Trece.

While defense attorneys for some alleged gangsters listed in the indictment say they've been misidentified and police can't constitutionally prohibit them from associating with each other, Greiner contends a careful process was used to determine that police targeted the correct group.

"We served the really hard core [gang members]," Greiner said. "We're making a very good effort to make sure the people we're serving are the ones we want."

The majority of Trece members arrested for violating the injunction declined interview requests by The Salt Lake Tribune left at the jail or with their attorneys, relatives and at phone numbers listed under their names.

Arrested most frequently since the injunction started is 19-year-old Mario Serrano, who has been cited four times by police for violating the injunction when stopped for traffic violations. In the case of Davy Martinez Jr., police pulled him over for expired registration and driving on a suspended license during a traffic stop.

Conley said the majority of those arrested for violating the injunction were caught in similar situations in which charges for traffic violations, assault or drugs coincided with an injunction violation.

Court challenge • The ACLU has taken its challenge all the way to the Utah Supreme Court, which in November refused to suspend the injunction. The high court didn't address the merits of the injunction, leaving the door open for further hearings on the topic, Goddard said.

An evidentiary hearing will eventually be held on whether the injunction can be made permanent. But Goddard said the ACLU is concerned those cited in the injunction will have to comply until the issue is sorted out in court.

In February, the first court challenge to the gang injunction moved closer to trial with the case of 19-year-old Samuel Parsons. His only conviction is a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession, but is labeled by police as a Trece associate because gang members have recorded at his music studio and the gang's graffiti is on his house.

Parsons' lawyer, Michael Studebaker, is arguing the injunction violates Parsons' due process rights by effectively closing the music studio and has asked Jones to dismiss his client from the injunction. Jones' ruling in the case is expected within the month. The judge could then schedule a trial.

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith has argued Trece members can still travel the city to go to work and conduct their personal lives. People listed on the injunction can seek removal if they meet criteria, which include employment for one year. Smith said there is no constitutional right to be in a criminal street gang —and that communities have the right to safety without gangs surrounding them.

Alleged Trece member Isaac Rader is also contesting his placement in the injunction. Rader was arrested within 24 hours of being served as he and his brother were driving back from the hospital at 11:20 p.m. — 20 minutes past their 11 p.m. curfew, Goddard said.

Is gang crime slowing? • As part of her argument, Goddard points to recent research on similar initiatives in California.

A study conducted in Inglewood, Calif., in 1997 found few positive effects from a gang injunction there. An ACLU study, also carried out in 1997, discovered an increase in violence following a San Fernando Valley injunction.

But a third study conducted over a six-year period of 14 gang injunctions passed in Los Angeles County found a 5 to 10 percent reduction in assaults and no increase of crime in adjoining areas. Property crime numbers didn't change.

Another California study examining five neighborhoods in San Bernardino 18 months before and six months after a gang injunction discovered less of a gang presence and decreased fear. But the rate of victimization stayed flat and people weren't calling the police more often.

"The thing that gets lost in the emotional appeal of the gang injunction, is there are a lot of studies that look at the gang injunction in the last 10 or 12 years. None of them support any argument of a long-term crime reduction," Goddard said. "Focusing on a gang injunction can impede other police efforts that are helpful in gang violence, for example, gang outreach efforts."

The Ogden Police Department announced it was stepping up its gang outreach efforts about the same time the injunction came into effect.

The city formed C.R.O.S.S., a gang intervention program. The acronym stands for community, re-entry, opportunities, social and suppression — five strategies police say are crucial in fighting gangs. The program connects at-risk youths between the ages 14 to 21 with counseling, job skills and positive social activities.

Program participants are referred by their probation or parole officer and coordinators assess which services would best help the participant avoid gangs in the future. The initiative aims to help 160 youths and their families within the first year.

One aspect of the injunction Conley said he didn't anticipate: some parents see it as a tool to remove their child from a gang. He said worried relatives have contacted the Police Department asking police to include their children.

In one case, Conley said, the grandmother of a 13-year-old girl, who made $300 during the summer selling drugs for Trece, called him to say she didn't know how to get the child away from the gang's influence. The Police Department couldn't serve her, but has started a gang intelligence file and hopes to steer the girl into anti-gang programs, he said.

"We've been asked by parents to have their kids be served to keep them away from alcohol, guns and drugs," Conley said.

Trendsetter • Conley last month presented Ogden's efforts at the Utah Gang Investigators Association Conference, where several investigators expressed interest in Ogden's brainchild.

"We're certainly watching to see what they do," said Rick Wall, a spokesman for the Salt Lake City Police Department, which recently launched a new gang task force in conjunction with the FBI. "I think everybody is probably waiting to see what happens."

Not everyone is pleased with the effects of the injunction.

Surrounding communities such as South Ogden, Clinton, Clearfield are seeing gang problems spill over into their boundaries. Conley said Ogden police are educating those cities on how to handle gang members and crack down on graffiti and other crimes popping up.

"Our fellow chiefs are saying, 'Thanks a lot. You passed your problem on,' " Greiner half-joked.

Greiner said the true test of the injunction's progress will occur this summer, when gang crime in the city typically spikes.

Levi Martinez finds the injunction a mixed blessing. On one hand, he knows his grandson is off the street if arrested and put in jail for violating the injunction. On the other, he said, he's not so sure if it is right for police to be infringing on the man's right to associate with other people in public.

"I think it's wrong, the way they're doing it," he said. "I think when they were younger, it might have been OK. But now that they're older? I don't know," he said.

mrogers@sltrib.com

In past six months, several Ogden Trece gang members arrested

Ogden police have made 24 arrests in separate cases of suspects labeled as Ogden Trece street gang members for violating the city's gang injunction in the past six months. Those arrested include two juveniles, one arrested more than once, whose names are protected. Those 18 and older arrested include:

Lawrence K. Archuleta, 29

Jeffrey J. Arguello, 22

Ceasar A. Benson, 20

Nasario T. Boney, 31

Channing M. Cook, 27

Angelo M. Gonzales, 19 (Arrested two times)

Eligilo R. Hernandez, 21 (Arrested two times)

Roman N. Hernandez, 26

Davy R. Martinez, 25

Valentino T. Martinez, 22 (Arrested two times)

Dario D. Muniz, 22

Mario F. Saucedo, 21

Mario J. Serrano, 19 (Arrested four times since September for violating the injunction)

Henry F. Sosa, 28

Jeffrey R. Vigil, 19

Source: Ogden Police Department