Ogden enforcing ban on street gang

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OGDEN -- Ogden police are enforcing a curfew and other restrictions on a street gang accused of everything from graffiti to murder.

Second District Court Judge Ernie Jones declared the 485-member Ogden Trece a public nuisance Monday and granted Weber County prosecutors' request for an injunction, the first of its kind in Utah. Police say that this injunction is similar to a restraining order or a protective order that's filed against an abusive partner.

The members are prohibited from associating with one another in public; being around guns, drugs and alcohol; or staying out past 11 p.m.

The police have served 17 gang members with papers since prosecutors filed the injunction last month. Many of those served with temporary restraining orders claim they are no longer affiliated with the gang.

Officers said they will start serving papers to the most active gang members first.

Police Chief Jon Greiner said officers will not use the injunction as an excuse to target the group, saying he won't launch a dragnet but that police will be on the lookout for violations of the court order.

"They are going to go on a normal call and ask people for their identification and pull up their pictures on the computer," he said. "If they have been served this order there is something more to arrest them for."

Two Ogden lawyers who fought the injunction with help from the ACLU said they were filing an immediate appeal to the Utah Supreme Court. The Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is expected to join.

In a phone interview, an attorney representing several people named in the complaint said that they have done nothing wrong and they have been confined to their homes because of who they are.

He says it puts a strain on the community because many of these people are related or lifelong friends, preventing them from associating at family or other social gatherings.

The critics call the injunction and a database of members a heavy-handed constitutional violation of free assembly that even bans felt-tip pens and spray paint as graffiti tools.

Trece was founded in 1974, according to a 331-page injunction that includes more than 100 pages of photographs of gang tattoos, graffiti, hand signs and clothing. It accuses Trece of everything from graffiti to murder.

The judge will hear more arguments in November on whether or not to make the injunction permanent.

Similar injunctions have been used against gangs in California, where authorities claim it has been successful.

"What California has seen is about 30 percent of their gang membership numbers have gone down," Greiner said. "Within the last 30 days, Texas, with one of the injunctions, sent people to their state penal institution in violation of this on a five-year sentence."

In Utah, "We did it after a lot of study, after a lot of careful consideration," Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said. "We're convinced that it will be a benefit to the law-abiding citizens of this community."


Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and the Associated Press.


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