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Escondido Police Tighten Leash on Suspected Gangsters

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (AP) -- Police served dozens of suspected gang members with court orders forbidding them to congregate in public spaces, flash gang signs or wear certain clothes.

Failure to obey the orders could lead to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000, authorities said.

"That's what gang members understand, immediate consequences," said Detective Jeff Valdivia of the Escondido Police Department's gang unit.

A Superior Court judge signed off last week on the orders, which were served Tuesday by four dozen law enforcement officers, including Escondido police, investigators from the district attorney's office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Two-thirds of the people served were younger than 18, authorities said.

Two "safety zones" in central Escondido, a suburb 30 miles north of San Diego, will be off-limits to more than 100 suspected members of the city's two largest rival gangs, police said.

Civil rights advocates said the gang injunctions violate civil rights.

"You are turning 'innocent until proven guilty' on its head," said Kevin Keenan, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "These folks are having their freedom restricted without being found guilty in a court of law."

Police say Escondido is home to three Latino gangs totaling just over 300 members, according to police.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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