Mark Alvarado, the executive director of grassroots social justice organization PUEBLO, announced that his organization now formally opposes the gang injunction launched by the City of Santa Barbara earlier this year. Alvarado, who previously expressed an openness to injunctions under certain circumstances, said his board voted to oppose the initiative launched by City Hall shortly after two non-gang members were killed in high profile murders by gang members.
One half of the 30 people on the list are already incarcerated. Of the rest, six or seven seem to be “turning their lives around already and have had no criminal contacts since becoming adults,” Alvarado said. Injunction supporters counter that its chief benefit is to shield potential recruits from active members.
Alvarado argued that the South Coast Task Force on Gang Violence has initiated several programs that need to be given time to work. Alvarado suggested that with a gang injunction in place, such efforts might be “suffocated.” For example, he said, the Task Force has convened several gatherings of service providers and members of gang-impacted families to better connect services with the people who need them. The Task Force is hosting a stakeholders summit sometime this October. After that, Alvarado said PUEBLO will host a community wide workshop — lead by a panel of experts — on gang injunctions.
He faulted City Hall for not vetting the idea in a more public fashion before launching the injunction. For the time being, the injunction remains more a legal theory than fact. The matter will be debated in the courtroom of Judge James Brown the second week of November.
In the meantime, the Task Force has a new interim director to replace Dr. Gus Frias, who resigned after six months at the helm because of injuries sustained while falling down a flight of stairs. Replacing Frias is Saul Serrano, who’s worked with at-risk teens over the past 14 years with the Community Action Commission. While Serrano was not available for comment by deadline, Marcelo Lopez, assistant administrator for the City of Santa Barbara commented, “He knows the community, he knows the programs, he’s focused, and he knows the client population.”