Orange County District Attorney
Press Release

Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701

For Immediate Release
July 21st, 2005
Contact:Mark Macaulay
Media Relations Spokesperson
(714) 347-8405

Santa Ana – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) has released a report on gangs which covers the activities of the Gang and TARGET units of the OCDA over the past year along with a 10-year comparison and analysis of gang activity in Orange County.  The report includes the following facts:

Number of street gangs and membership declining:
One result is in decrease of gang related homicides

  •  In 1999, the County had 19,965 gang members.  That number fluctuated between 18,669 and 24,035 between 1995 and 1998.  In 2004, there were 13,259 active gang members in Orange County, a decrease of 44% from the all time high of 24,035 in 1996. 
  •  The number of known street gangs has also decreased from 1998 to 2004.  From 1995 to 1998, there was a steady rise in gang membership, with 1998 being the peak.  In that year, 400 gangs were identified in Orange County.  Today 338 gangs are identified, a decrease of 15%.
  • Between 1995 and 1998, Orange County experienced an average of 36 victims of gang homicides a year.  The peak was in 1993 at 74.  Since then, victims of gang homicides have decreased to an average of 25 a year.

Gang membership being treated as an
aggravating factor in filing and sentencing

  •  Juvenile gang defendants are being treated as adult criminals.  Prior to 1998, about 50% of gang cases were filed in juvenile court.  Following that year, an average of 30% a year of filed cases were filed in juvenile court.  
  •  From 1995 to 1998, 66% of cases filed against gang members were filed as felonies. Since 1999, 77% of gang cases were filed as felonies.  The trend seems to be holding true.  Since 2002, over 80% of gang cases were filed as felonies and increased in the last 2 years to almost 90%.
  •  Since 1999, the District Attorney’s Office has been increasingly aggressive in filing sentencing enhancements.  Prior to 1999, about 620 gang defendants a year were charged with enhancements through PC 186.22 known as the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP Act) or 3rd Strike laws.  After 1999, that number rose to about 800 a year. In 2004, 71% of gang defendants were charged with either active participation in a criminal street gang or committing a crime, at the direction of, in association with, or for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
  •  In the last 10 years, 8,393 gang defendants have been sentenced.  In 2004 alone 769 or 90% of convicted gang members were sentenced to custody time.  In addition, 333 were either committed to state prison or the California Youth Authority.  Of those sent to prison in 2004, 32 were sentenced to life.

OCDA Gang and TARGET units perform at high levels

  • The units conducted 82 trials involving gang defendants in 2004 with an impressive 95.8% conviction rate in trials completed.  This is the highest overall conviction rate in 10 years.
  •  Over the last ten years the Gang and TARGET Units have averaged an 89% conviction rate for all cases and a 92% conviction rate for trials.

Comments from Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas

“When I became District Attorney, I wanted to make Orange County the un-Disneyland for gang members.  My goal is to tighten the noose on them at every turn to make Orange County the un-happiest place on Earth for a gang member.”

“Gang membership is a direct and the most dangerous threat to the safety of our community.  This small group of our population commits some of the worst crimes in our country. In order to win the battle against gangs, law enforcement, religious leaders, business owners, educators and all citizens must stand together and approach the problem from all angles: education, prevention, enforcement and prosecution.”   

“The battle against gangs should be thought of as a long-term engagement.  We should act like we are standing on a railroad track.  We may be on the right course, but if we don’t stay vigilant and pay attention, we may get run over.”

The 2004 Gang Report is part of a series of annual reports published by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office describing the efforts being made to combat gang activity in Orange County.  The 12 page report is available upon request.