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Prosecutors Remove Hundreds From County Gang Injunction Lists

March 13, 2019 1:39 p.m.

GUEST:Summer Stephan, District Attorney, San Diego County

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Related Story: Prosecutors Remove Hundreds From County Gang Injunction Lists

Transcript:

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And now we take a closer look at news this week that San Diego County District Attorney Summers Steffen is auditing the county's gang injunction list. Stefan tells Evening Edition anchor Ebony Monet why she removed more than 40 percent of the eight hundred people on the list. Here's that interview.

What exactly are gang injunctions.

So it basically designates it like a certain park where children should be playing and where now it's been taken over by gang members or a certain block. So it looks at high intensity areas that have gang violence. And in San Diego County there were several regions San Diego City Oceanside San Marcos S. Candido and National City mainly were areas where gang injunctions were obtained. It's a civil order that enjoins or stops for lack of a better word. Gang members from being in a certain area and it involved 12 different gangs and 20 different injunctions.

And during the time when when they were more and use any evidence that these gang injunctions actually helped law enforcement with efforts to reduce gang violence.

So the first one in San Diego was in 1997 and the last one in the year 2000. And if we just look at the number of gang murders and gang related crimes they have substantially gone down in San Diego. It's very hard to say whether any one effort whether it's the civil gang injunctions or whether it's the more intense law enforcement or whether it's the enhanced community engagement. But you know it's a combination of multiple efforts that came together and gang violence and gang crimes are down in San Diego. And what was your announcement this week regarding these injunctions these gang injunctions that even though they occurred many many years ago that individuals remain on them for a lifetime unless there is a specific court action to remove them from the list you don't automatically fall off after five years and it seemed that there was a substantial number of people that had well moved on with their life there were productive members of society they left the gang lifestyle behind but they're having a hard time getting jobs and integrating and reentering with their families because of still being listed on these gang civil injunctions.

So we went through a very thorough review eight months worth working with law enforcement looking at records at history patterns and we determined that three hundred and thirty two individuals from about 800 799 to be exact had met the criteria that they had changed their life in such a way that there's a substantial difference from the time the judge issued the order in the first place. So we took those new court orders to court on their behalf and the judges all agreed to sign them and agreed with our position that they deserved a second chance.

So three hundred and thirty two individuals are now no longer on that civil injunction list.

And why now. That's it sounds like a great deal of work for it for your office.

What what motivated this was simply the conversations in the community I know there are also some pending lawsuits statewide but I have a group of pastors that advised me that are very engaged in the communities I've opened up kind of my e-mail for people to just you know talk to me and I've just heard from parents who really they can't even have their kids come visit them because they are enjoined from a certain area. And I've heard those stories and wanted to really achieve this balance in justice between protecting our community making sure we go after the current gang violence the people that are engaged in violence but also give second chances for people who've moved on and really want to be a full members of our community.

Their reaction has been incredible I got one e-mail from a local pastor whose son went on the list 17 years ago and his son called him immediately when he got my letter telling him he's no longer on the list telling his father I feel like I've been released from prison. So kind of like a psychological prison of being forever labeled a certain way so that that tells me it was worth it and that we've done a good job.

What about the people who say to ease up on these gang injunctions would be making San Diego not a faith.

This was an agreement based on understanding that this person has been away from any serious violent crime for 10 years and that they've been away from any gang involvement for five years. And statistically that is a very valid way to assess whether they're actually a risk presently. Are there guarantees in life there are no guarantees. We have people that are currently on the injunction list that were not removed. Sixty five of them that just committed crimes this past year and we have several that have murder warrants out. So being on the list doesn't guarantee that you're not committing crimes.

And so you just have to use your best assessment of your experience your law enforcement partners experience.

District attorney former Stefan thanks so much for talking to us.

Thank you. And that was Ebony Monet. Evening editions anchor.