About 50 people gathered in the Friend’s Room at the Newport Beach Public Library Thursday morning to listen to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas speak.
The event was the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Wake Up! Newport meeting.
Rackauckas spoke about DNA testing, CODIS system, gang prevention efforts, crime stats and more.
Orange County is the only county in California that has a local DNA database that includes misdemeanors and felonies, Rackauckas said.
The local database helps stop career criminals early and prevent future crimes, he explained.
“It’s been a really good (system) in our county,” he said.
A relatively small number of criminals tend to commit many crimes, Rackauckas said. About eight percent of people commit 85 percent of crimes in California, he said.
Almost all serious and violent criminal offenders have prior minor convictions, Rackauckas noted.
They handle a wide variety of cases, Rackauckas said, but most are criminal, not civil. And many of those crimes are gang-related. About half of the homicides committed in Orange County are committed by gang members.
There are many efforts working to combat gang problems, he said.
Rackauckas spoke about the gang injunction “safety zone.”
“A gang injunction is a civil court order that restricts or prohibits documented gang members from participating in specific acts or activities that may or may not be inherently criminal within a designated area,” according to the OCDA website.
The terms state that they must not association with any known gang members, stay away from drugs, no fighting, gang clothes or hand signs, and obey all laws, among other things.
The Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership is also fighting gang activity in the county, he continued. The GRIP program works with schools and parents to try and prevent kids from ever joining a gang.
“We do all this work to try to prosecute gang members and get them off the street,” Rackauckas said. “Well what do we do to keep kids from joining gangs? That’s what the GRIP program does.”
The program implements gang prevention strategies in school districts with at risk youth, families and communities. It uses education, enforcement efforts, curfew sweeps and reward incentives in collaboration with local companies and organizations.
It’s a very active program, he added. Hopefully the program impacts enough kids to make a difference in the future, he said.
“The major effort here is just to keep the kids in school and have them be successful at school,” he continued. “if they are, they’re much, much less likely to join a gang.”