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Ogden's gang injunction may be to blame for a new problem law enforcement is facing while trying to interact with gang members. Pre-injunction, gang members would outwardly admit involvement with their gang. Now, officials say, they deny any association, which is causing more work for officers.
The injunction, which was put into place in September 2010, prevents Ogden Trece gang members from associating within the city, sets a curfew and prohibits them from carrying guns and graffiti tools in public.
A three-day hearing was held earlier this month to decide whether the injunction, which has so far been deemed preliminary, will become a permanent action within the city. Second District Judge Ernie Jones has yet to rule on the case, with a decision likely at least a week away. Ogden Police Lt. Scott Conley said officers have recently seen members denying gang affiliation or trying to hide their involvement.
"Prior to the injunction going into place, individuals were proud to admit their standing or affiliation in local gangs," Conley said. "Since the injunction ... we are finding that individuals are not so vocal about their involvement. In fact, they have become somewhat evasive."
This evasiveness is problematic for gang unit officers, who have had to use alternative methods to identify whether a suspect is a gang member, Conley said.
When someone doesn't admit they are a member of a gang, officers use a list of criteria that indicates gang involvement. The criteria, which has been approved by the city, includes the use of gang hand signs, identification as a gang member by a parent or confidential informant, committing a crime with other gang members, physical evidence such as photographs that identify them as gang members or gang-related tattoos.
Even tattoos on local gang members are getting more and more difficult to easily identify, Conley said. Rather than inking "13," the number that represents the Treces, plainly on their bodies, they have chosen more cryptic images, such as a clock with hands on the one and three, or a staircase with 13 stairs.
"We are having to increase our knowledge, and look at them even more closely," Conley said. He said other gangs in Ogden also have moved to lower-key representation due to the injunction."It's kind of become a mind set of the entire gang-involved community," he said.
Hiding their gang affiliations doesn't seem to be tied to whether the individuals have or have not been served with the injunction, Conley said.
Michael Studebaker, an Ogden attorney who represents someone who claims he was wrongly served with the injunction, said he considers the criteria used by police to identify gang members problematic.
"The criteria is nuts," Studebaker said. "I could wear a number 13 Jazz jersey and something else, and that could qualify me."
He said he knows there are others besides his client who have been misidentified by police as gang members. He is working on the defense team for the Ogden Treces to overturn the injunction, calling it unconstitutional.
The hesitation to admit gang involvement also has had a ripple effect on the multi-agency CROSS program, which stands for Community, Re-entry, Opportunity, Social, Suppression. The court-ordered program works with youth in the community to help them get away from gang life.
Problem is, the juveniles won't admit they're in a gang, forcing authorities to prove the youth's gang involvement through the same criteria used for adults.
Conley said juveniles can also be served with the gang injunction, but it is usually given to a parent or guardian. He said that the hesitancy to admit gang ties has not cut off all clientele from the program but has slowed the intake process, as it has taken longer for the police to verify the youth's gang behaviors.
How gang members are defined in Ogden
The city defines gang members by considering eight criteria. If a person meets two of the criteria, he or she can be documented as a gang member. If the person meets one of the criteria, he or she can be documented as a gang associate. The criteria are:
1. The suspect admits his gang membership; OR
2. Whether in custody or not, a person may also be documented as a gang member if two of the following criteria are met:
a. The suspect has been arrested in the commission of a crime where the criminal associates are documented gang members;
b. The suspect has been identified as a gang member through the use of a reliable confidential informant, parent or guardian of the suspect, or other documented gang members;
c. The suspect has known and identifiable gang tattoos;
d. The suspect wears clothing that can be identified as gang specific, either in the clothing itself or the manner in which the clothing is being worn;
e. The suspect engages in hand signs and/or uses speech and specific language that is typical of certain gangs and gang sets;
f. The suspect was found in the company of known gang members three or more times;
g. The suspect has a known moniker that other persons or gang members identify him with;
h. The suspect has been identified through other physical evidence or source proving their associations with known gang members (i.e., photographs, writings, recordings, documents, graffiti, social and electronic media, etc.).
Source: Ogden Police Department