Vargas: Injunctions protect families from gangs

By Joe Vargas

The Santa Ana Police Department and District Attorney’s office recently teamed up to get a gang injunction against the Townsend Street gang.

The ACLU and civil rights attorneys have of course immediately taken action against the implementation, citing the loss of personal liberty and the overreaching of government. Community activists claiming to speak on behalf of the entire community have organized “grass roots” opposition to the injunction.

8-4 Vargas mug

They have been very vocal in the media and at community meetings.

There is, however, a voice that remains silent and unheard.

That is the voice of the everyday families who have to live in the neighborhoods where gangs are a fact of life. The news media won’t be speaking to them. They won’t answer the door. If they do, fear keeps them from speaking the truth.

As a community policing officer and later a district commander, I have spoken to many families living in neighborhoods with gangs.  After winning their trust I was often invited into homes where I heard first hand what it was like for them trying to live day to day with gangs.

Drive by shootings, property crime and graffiti are just a fact of life for these families. Children grow up familiar with police tape and crime scenes. As the sun goes down parents lock their security-gated doors and do everything they can to keep the family safe.

Mom and dad try to keep the gang lifestyle at bay, but even the best parents are sometimes not enough against the reality of the neighborhood. They would ask me pointedly, “What’s wrong with the police?”

Didn’t we know who was dealing drugs? Didn’t we know who was carrying the guns? Why couldn’t we do more to help them?

There is nothing more frustrating than walking away and the only thing to say is, “We’re doing the best we can.”

I believe the last time I read the Declaration of Independence it stated very clearly that we each have the unalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Gangs deny the community the most basic of our human rights.

Who is going to protest on behalf the families who have no voice against the gangs in these neighborhoods? If the ACLU and community activists want a real target to go after they should be working to prevent gangs – not enable them.

The police and District Attorney have a moral obligation to do what they can to protect those who cannot protect themselves. To speak for those unable to speak for themselves. If a gang injunction is one of the tools at their disposal it should be used.

There are families depending on them.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain and its first public-information officer.