OGDEN -- A veteran member of the Ogden Trece street gang has become the first to successfully opt out of the gang and the injunction that bans Treces from acting out in public.
The injunction, in effect since September 2010, bans members of the roughly 300-plus-member gang from associating in public and even being in the presence of guns, drugs and alcohol.
The injunction, the first attempted in Utah after some success in California but little used elsewhere, also places an 11 p.m. curfew on the city's oldest gang, formed in the early 1970s.
The injunction has an opt-out provision where those identified as Treces and therefore bound by the injunction can demonstrate they've severed their gang ties.
Chief opt-out criteria are no gang-related contacts with police for three years and stable employment, subject to corroboration by authorities. A hearing is required for a judge's approval.
An older member of the gang who just this month went through the formal opt-out process in court said he did it to show Treces how quickly it can be done.
Officials said he is the first to successfully opt out, following several other Treces who did not meet the requirements. His name is being withheld from publication to avoid any possible retaliation by gang members.
"It feels so good," he said. "I just want to live a normal life."
The ex-Trece said he's tired of being in and out of prison. His record includes convictions on drugs, weapons and assault charges. He actually left the gang several years ago.
He went through the gang's opt-out process at that time: a severe beating, known in gang parlance as being "jumped out," that left him hospitalized for two days.
He said he has avoided his former gang associates for several years, "but this is official, for the court system and everything."
He hasn't had a backlash from his former Trece brothers, he said, partly because he' has been careful.
"I avoid 'em if I see them somewhere. I don't put myself in predicaments that would lead to my death."
He sat for a half-hour of questioning on the stand April 11 before 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones. Prosecutors said they had no objection to his being removed from the injunction.
A week later, Judge W. Brent West cut 60 days from the sentence he had imposed on the man for violating the injunction in December, dismissed the charge and released him from jail.
The Ogden Police Department gang unit joined with the Weber County Attorney's Office in creating the 336-page injunction that documents Trece activity covering everything from murder and an auto theft ring to loud parties and graffiti.
The injunction was built from the gang unit's database of all of the city's gang members, plus case reports of 700 incidents involving Treces dating back to 2007.
"We want people to opt out," said Weber County Attorney Dee Smith. "We want people to use the opt-out provisions to get out of the gang, to keep them from getting in trouble at 16, shooting up houses and spending 10 years in prison."
He said his office found the gang member who became the first to opt out with Jones' approval April 11 to be sincere in his intentions.
Several other gang members have attempted opt out of the injunction, but not the gang, and his office blocked their application.
"They wanted to get out from under the restrictions of the injunction, but they still wanted to hang with the gang," Smith said.
He said all gang incidents have declined since the injunction, most notably the incident of gang graffiti in Ogden from all gangs, not just Trece.
"Pre-injunction, we were seeing an average of 22 incidents of graffiti a month. Last year, it was down to 11, and this year, it's been averaging four a month."
In 2007, gang shootings reached a high point with 18 gang members shot that year, Smith said, compared with only a handful in recent years.
The injunction still faces legal hurdles with oral arguments in May on Trece lawyers' challenges on constitutional and other grounds.
Although it carries no expiration date, the injunction is still classified legally as a preliminary injunction. A full-blown trial for several days is scheduled for June in 2nd District Court to make it a permanent injunction.