War on Gangs Wounds Constitution

* I am appalled by the harsh criticism by Westminster officials of Superior Court Judge Richard J. Beacom's recent rejection of the city's severe anti-gang measure. The rise in juvenile crime, while a very frustrating and serious problem, should never serve as an excuse to take an end run around the Constitution. Denial of basic liberties to members of the West Trece gang, no matter how contemptible some of their actions are, is a denial of liberties for everyone.

Westminster City Atty. Richard Jones contends that his city is "trying to take a proactive position . . . to defend the community before a crime occurs." This kind of overzealous law enforcement got the Los Angeles Police Department in deep trouble during the late 1980s. The self-described "war on gangs" in Westminster and other cities in Orange County has reached a similar level of paranoia and produced unjustified mistreatment of young nonwhite males suspected of being hard-core gang members.

Young people belong to gangs for a variety of reasons. Understanding some of these reasons and providing worthwhile alternatives will go a lot farther than legal restrictions to reduce gang violence.

MARTIN SCHIESL

Mission Viejo

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