OGDEN, Utah -- Police are reporting a decrease in gang-related crime, dramatically since the city's gang unit began serving members of one particular street gang with restraining orders prohibiting them from associating with each other in public.
"We've seen a significant drop," Ogden Metro Gang Unit Lt. Scott Conley said on Wednesday.
According to statistics released to FOX 13, gang-related graffiti reports have dropped 76 percent since 2010, from 185 incidents to 44 in 2012. Overall crime involving documented gang members (including violent crimes) has dropped 22 percent in that same time period.
The police department's statistics show crime was already decreasing, but dropped significantly within the first year of police serving hundreds of gang members with injunctions banning them from associating with each other within most of the city limits.
"It creates a safer community," Conley said. "You're not seeing that type of activity taking place or that damage being done within our community."
The injunctions have been challenged in court on the grounds they trample on people's free association rights. Lawyers for some of the alleged gang members targeted by the injunctions have filed briefs with the Utah Supreme Court, seeking to have it declared unconstitutional. The state's top court could consider the case by 2014.
An attorney for some of the alleged gang members questioned the police department's numbers.
"This case has been pending now for a couple of years and now they come up with these new numbers?" attorney Michael Studebaker said Wednesday. "There's no indication the injunction was the predominant factor. Just last week even, northern Utah was getting hammered by a snowstorm. Weather could be a factor. An improving economy could be a factor."
Conley said he believed the injunctions were not the only reason why crime has declined. He pointed to the gang unit's educational and outreach efforts to youth to stop them from joining gangs, as well as efforts to help others leave gangs.
"It's not just the injunction itself," he said. "It's the entire package we're putting together. The prevention, the intervention, the suppression side of things."