Orange County is far from a safe and just community for all...
Neighborhood violence is a long-standing problem, concentrated in certain communities. Our county and city governments respond almost exclusively with outdated law enforcement approaches instead of more effective public health approaches. Our law enforcement departments target certain communities with overly punitive and ineffective tactics that result in racist disproportions in stops, arrests, prosecutions, and sentences. Our courts apply our system of laws without regard for evidence as to their effectiveness at improving safety or reducing recidivism. The result is that both crime and state violence drive inequality in Orange County and are negative upstream social determinants of health.
Neighborhood violence and social marginalization are inextricably connected.
Gangs typically form in the most socially marginalized communities. The maps below show how exactly gangs and social marginalization correlate. Notice how gangs and social marginalization cluster through much of Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Fullerton, but notice also that the small gang neighborhoods in Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Orange, San Juan Capistrano, and La Habra all correlate exactly to neighborhoods with poor social progress indicators, a measure of social marginalization.
Targeting communities with aggressive policing and incarceration contributes to social marginalization. Ultimately, this leads to more violence, not less. We need solutions to neighborhood violence that don't contribute to the underlying causes.
Prosecutions and Police Violence in Orange County are profoundly inequitable.
The Orange County District Attorney disproportionately targets people of color for criminal prosecution. For example, 2.1% of people in Orange County are Black, but Black people represented 5.8% of those criminally charged in the county. OCDA is also more likely to charge Black and Latinx people with felonies and sentencing enhancements than white people, and less likely to offer Black and Latinx people diversion as an alternative to incarceration
Police killings in Orange County are profoundly inequitable.
Between 2013 and 2021, people of color in Orange County were as much as 20 times more likely to be killed by police than White people.
Orange County Law Enforcement Continue to Embrace Discredited Approaches to Gang Suppression.
Orange County is one of the last counties to continue to use gang injunctions – probation-like court orders against people without due process and without any requirement that the defendant has even committed a crime. Nearly every county in the state, including San Diego, has abandoned this tactic.
Solutions to these problems will require ambitious action from a broad range of committed stakeholders. The Peace and Justice Law Center is an anchor for this work.