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Curbs on two gangs OKd

Times Staff Writer

A Superior Court judge approved sweeping preliminary injunctions Friday making it illegal for 226 alleged members of two rival gangs to associate in designated areas of San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

The two injunctions signed by Judge Daniel Didier were against the Varrio Viejo gang in San Juan Capistrano and Varrio Chico gang in San Clemente. Law enforcement officials said the action was needed to stop gang members from terrorizing residents and because of fights between the groups.

At a news conference attended by law enforcement officials, Orange County Assistant Sheriff Jack Anderson called gang members “homegrown American terrorists.”

But attorney Victor Manuel Torres, who represents two San Clemente juveniles named in one of the injunctions, said authorities “cast with too broad a net.”

“They’re saying that everyone on the list is a gang member. My clients were included because they are friends with people perceived as gang members,” Torres said.

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San Juan Capistrano resident Luis Vazquez was also named in one of the injunctions. Vazquez, 20, said he was arrested two years ago for carrying an illegal martial arts weapon but insists he is not a gang member. He also says he works two jobs.

“I work a graveyard shift, come home, shower and go to my day job,” Vazquez said. “I don’t have time to go gangbanging.”

On Thursday, about 100 people, including some ordered to appear in court the next day, marched on Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano and accused sheriff’s deputies of racial profiling. Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas on Friday rejected allegations that the injunctions were racially motivated.

Relations between the Latino community and deputies have been strained for many years.

“There is a long history of police abuse and intimidation in this community,” said Omar Loya, a Saddleback College student. “The police are basically an organized gang.”

Tensions between Latinos and deputies in San Juan Capistrano flared in 2003 after four Marines were beaten and stabbed following an altercation with a group of Latinos. Deputies fanned out through the city’s immigrant community looking for the attackers. Residents said they were harassed, roughed up and in one case tossed in jail.

On Friday, Rackauckas expressed regret for not making any arrests in that incident and blamed gang members for the attack. But sheriff’s officials said in 2003 that they didn’t know if the attackers belonged to gangs.

Rackauckas and others cited the gangs’ violence as the reason for the injunctions. However, FBI statistics show that San Juan Capistrano’s crime rate is similar to those in nearby Dana Point and Laguna Hills, two cities whose populations match San Juan Capistrano’s.

In 2006, San Juan Capistrano reported 49 violent crimes, Dana Point 48 and Laguna Hills 47. In 2005 San Juan Capistrano reported 59 violent crimes, Dana Point 61 and Laguna Hills 53. During that period, San Juan Capistrano recorded the only murder. The cities are all patrolled by sheriff’s deputies.

Figures provided by prosecutors show that from June 2005 to June 2007 gang members allegedly committed 80 weapons violations, 21 acts of graffiti or vandalism and three vehicle thefts in the designated safety zone in north San Juan Capistrano. Deputies also cited 30 cases in which suspects were allegedly wearing gang clothing, 11 cases in which they reportedly made gang hand signs and seven cases of intimidation.

The injunctions ban these activities and others. Violations can be punished with as much as three years in state prison. A court proceeding will be held to determine if the injunctions should be made permanent.

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hgreza@latimes.com


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