Gang a 'public nuisance' / Weber prosecutors file injunction against Ogden Trece

Aug 27 2010 - 11:55pm

OGDEN -- Prosecutors have filed an injunction declaring one of Ogden's largest street gangs a public nuisance.

The injunction bans the 485-plus members of Ogden Trece from associating with each other, possessing guns and even being in the vicinity of illegal drugs. It also forces an 11 p.m. curfew.

The injunction is a first for the state, said Weber County Attorney Dee Smith. "This has not been done in Utah, declaring a street gang a public nuisance in formal court documents.

"This will give law enforcement the ability to keep them from congregating, and from intimidating citizens. They've been running amok for too long."

Smith said all known members of Trece, a three-generation home-grown gang originally known as Central City Locos, will likely be served with the injunction. They can't be cited for violating it until it has been served, he said.

So far, 17 members have been served since the injunction was filed Aug. 20 in 2nd District Court.

At a hearing Tuesday morning before 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones, officials will seek to make permanent a preliminary approval of the injunction so far granted as a temporary restraining order.

Smith said he has been contacted by two attorneys representing Treces members concerned about the injunction. One was veteran local defense lawyer Mike Boyle; the other asked Smith to keep his name confidential.

Asked about the injunction, Utah ACLU Legal Director Darcy Goddard would only say, "We are aware of the matter, but nobody has requested comment or action by the ACLU of Utah."

Calls to Boyle were not immediately returned.

Smith isn't worried about reaching the hundreds of gang members with the injunction.

"We already have regular contact with them. They take up way too much of the Ogden Police Department's time. They are in and out of jail constantly, so I don't foresee any problem serving them all with the injunction."

Officials have been working on the 200-plus-page injunction for a year.

California prosecutors and a federal prosecutor from Washington, D.C., have been advising locals on the project and were flown in for two days of instruction.

California has had some success with the public- nuisance approach with gangs, but it was not immediately known if the injunctions have been tried anywhere else.

"Agencies across the state are going to be watching us to see how this works," said Lt. Scott Conley, who leads the Ogden-Weber Metro Gang Unit in the Ogden Police Department.

"It's time we try to think outside the box and develop new tools."

The gang unit joined with the county attorney's office in creating the injunction. The injunction documents Trece activity covering "everything from murder to loud parties and graffiti," Smith said.

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.

The injunction seeks to create a gang-free zone for which the injunction would have jurisdiction.

"We're asking that the borders be the city limits," Conley said. "The gang-free zone would be Ogden itself."

The more concentrated area of the city for Trece activity is the central city, he said, generally considered Lincoln Avenue to Harrison Boulevard and between 20th and 32nd Streets.

While violation of the injunction would be only a class B misdemeanor -- a formal charge of violation of an order to abate a nuisance -- punishable by a maximum of six months in jail, it's expected other charges will be filed from finding guns and drugs during the routine searches incident to arrest.

Smith said the injunction's foundation is the "carefully maintained" database of the OPD gang unit. To be listed in the database requires a gang detective convincing the unit's sergeant and lieutenant of a gang member's credentials.

Operation of the database is also enforced by federal law, Conley said. It covers who the data can be disbursed to, which is only other law enforcement agencies. Names must be expunged after five years without any contact with the gang unit.

Smith said, after Trece, his office plans on injunctions of the half-dozen other major gangs in Ogden, then the smaller units.

"Eventually, we'll have every gang in Ogden enjoined."

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