A proliferation of crime at cyber cafes has prompted Santa Ana to ban new ones from opening.

Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Youth Media program, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Digital Editor Sonya Quick at squick@voiceofoc.org.

The Santa Ana Police Department identified over 480 incidents from January 2018 to September 2018 that involved criminal activity at cyber cafes in the city, according to a staff report. These crimes included gambling, drug use and sale, assaults, and weapons offenses.

Customers have to pay for internet use at cyber cafes.

The City Council adopted an urgency ordinance in October 2018 that placed a 45-day moratorium on the operation of cyber cafes. That ordinance was then extended to last 10 months in November 2018, as the city worked to find a solution to the ongoing issue.

“We know that the problem continues, and doing something along these lines which would prohibit cyber cafes, I think, is a good thing,” said Councilman Jose Solario at an October meeting at which the council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance banning new cyber cafes.

Councilwoman Cecilia Iglesias agreed with this sentiment, saying cyber cafes were affecting the safety of neighboring businesses.

This ordinance would not affect cyber learning centers, which are defined in the city as establishments that offer internet access at no cost and are operated by a government entity, nonprofit, or school district.

According to City Manager Kristine Ridge, businesses established before the moratorium will be allowed to operate. Currently, five cyber cafes remain open, all of which are being closely monitored by law enforcement, according to a staff report.

However, the establishments will not be able to expand. If these grandfathered businesses close for longer than one year, they will not be able to reopen, Ridge said.

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