Ricardo Cruz and Alfredo Miguel Aquino stand charged with the October 22 murder of 9-year-old Ximena Meza in Anaheim, caught in the crossfire of a gang-related shooting. Though Cruz and Aquino admitted this summer to being members of a relatively new gang called RAW (Ready at War), court documents obtained by the Weekly show that the murder charges OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas filed against them push forth an interesting claim: that they carried out the shooting as "active participants" of the decades-old Anaheim FOLKS (Family of Latin Kings Sureños) gang.
Who's FOLKS? Oh, just one of the thirteen OC gangs under one of Rackauckas' infamous gang injunctions, this one dating back to March 2011. Tony Rack and his crew always love to trot out stats claiming that the gang injunctions work, that they're a successful tool against cholo violence. Yet more than three years later, they're now essentially admitting that a gang they targeted with an injunction ended up killing an innocent girl anyway.
The OCDA argues that an injunction's so-called "safety-zone" and stifling rules against cholos kicking it together hamper the ability of gangs to terrorize communities, lowering crime as a result. "The public interest in tranquility and security, and public order, is threatened by Defendant's [FOLKS] oppressive and widespread and criminal and nuisance behavior," the original injunction read.
Deputy District Attorneys Tracy Miller and Susan Eckermann cited their general statistics to the Weekly in a conference call to bolster the claim. They say that violent crime in the "safety zones" established by the FOLKS injunction dropped by 44% compared to 2010, the year before the injunction went into effect. Vandalism and gang-related calls for service fell 26% and 25%, respectively.
Anaheim leads OC with four gang injunctions (take THAT, SanTana!). The one against FOLKS is unique in that it has two safety zones. But neither cover a barrio FOLKS claims that falls just within Buena Park city limits, the very hood that Cruz and Aquino were forbidden from hanging out in as part of their probation for a felony billy club possession conviction–the very hood Cruz, Aquino and other FOLKS kept hanging out in. FOLKS and RAW are allies, with the former having a long-time beef noted in the injunction with Chicanos Kicking Ass (CKA), the street gang that claims the neighborhood Meza was killed in.
So Rackauckas' injunction, depending on where you fall politically, was either incomplete or completely clueless about pushing FOLKS to kick it a couple of blocks away from the gang injunction, with no threat of repercussion from the cops and every chance to safely plan with allies.
"The people we are protecting are primarily Hispanic and poor. [They] beg for it," says OCDA Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder, justifying the injunctions and brushing aside critics' contention that injunctions are racist. "The child that was killed was Hispanic."
The Weekly told Schroeder and her crew about critics like the LA-based Youth Justice Coalition, who cite research saying that gang injunctions displace drug dealing and other crime outside a safety-zone, expanding violence to other neighborhoods and allowing gangs to reconsolidate.
"That's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard," Schroeder shot back.
"The displacement argument is not true," added Miller, mentioning a study by UC Irvine and USC researchers in passing. Maybe Miller should've actually read the report: The 2005 study did show some relief for communities under injunction, but the Verdugo Flats barrio in San Bernardino profiled had its problems, too. Researchers found the injunction "less effective" when it came to issues of violence against residents, and one nearby area without a heavy gang presence actually experienced an increase in victimization after the injunction.
Anaheim police chief Raul Quezada mentioned the possibility of a gang injunction against CKA when addressing community members at a town hall two days after the Meza murder. Much good an injunction did last time…
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2