Turning the Curve on Youth Violence

The Criminal Justice Council, alongside the United Way and Applied Survey Research, convened a community forum on "Turning the Curve on Youth Violence: Moving from Data to Action" on December 10th. Participants from many public sectors attended to hear the data findings from the Youth Violence Prevention Taskforce and contribute their input to create a strategic plan for reducing and preventing youth violence in Santa Cruz County.

The mission of the Taskforce is to create: An equitable and united county where all youth are engaged in family, school, and community; where all youth have a sense of safety and wellbeing; where all youth feel they have a voice and are empowered to use it; and where all youth are able to access opportunities for successful transition into adulthood.

Click here to view the PowerPoint (PDF) from the December 10th Summit 

Watch the KSBW news report here 

Santa Cruz Sentinel 12/11/13:
Building Safer Streets
Youth weapons arrests up, overall arrest rate down

WATSONVILLE — The number of teens booked into Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall has fallen by almost half in a decade to 562 while young folks arrested with weapons has jumped significantly since 2006, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Way and county Criminal Justice Council.
The reason more teens are carrying guns and knives and other weapons such as crowbars — up 36 percent from 2006 to 2012 — is due largely to not feeling safe in their neighborhoods and feeling scared while traveling to and from school, according to the 93-page report that describes youth violence across the county.
They also carry weapons with the intention of harming someone else, Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano said.
Only 59 percent of Pajaro Valley 11th graders say they feel “very safe” or “safe” at school compared with 78 percent for Scotts Valley Unified and Santa Cruz City Schools students, the report found.
“There’s a sense of fear and intimidation and being unsafe at night,” Solano said about seeing more armed young people on the streets. “They’re trying to survive being targeted by gangs and just getting to and from school.”
The report “Santa Cruz County Status on Youth Violence” was presented at a community forum held at Watsonville City Hall with about 300 people in attendance, including law enforcement, social service providers, teachers, elected leaders, judges and parents.
In addition to the presentation of data collected by Watsonville firm Applied Survey Research, Tuesday’s event included youth speakers sharing first-hand experiences and small group discussions to receive recommendations on how to “turn the curve” on youth violence in the county.
“The ultimate goal here is to design a youth violence prevention plan on soundly based data and research, said Fernando Giraldo of the county Probation Department and Santa Cruz County Criminal Justice Council.


There are an estimated 65,000 people ages 10-24 who make up the youth population inSanta Cruz County, according to the United Way.
The report, comprised mostly with statistics from the state Department of Justice and census data, shows the overall crime rate per 1,000 residents in Santa Cruz County is down almost 7 percent to 36.9 percent from 2006, which is higher than the statewide rate of 32.3.
Key highlights of the report include fewer youth alcohol and drug related arrests and a slightly lower poverty rate for people younger than age 18 compared with 2008. 
However, the county's gang participation rate is higher than the state average.
One in 10 high school freshmen self-reported being a gang member in 2010-11 compared with 8 percent statewide, the report said.
About a third of students reported feeling depressed, only a third have jobs and almost all homeless youth are unsheltered, according to the report.
The report shows youth violence is worse in Watsonville compared to other parts of the county with the city dealing with 145 of 259 gang-related cases countywide from January to June and only half of the population having a high school degree or higher.
The Sheriff's Office had the second most gang cases the first half of this year with 78, the report said. Santa Cruz Police Department had 33 gang cases in the same time period.
While Latinos make up 40 percent of the county youth population, they are overrepresented in juvenile arrests and account for 60 percent of the youth on probation, according to the report.
Santa Cruz City Councilman Don Lane, who attended the workshop, said it's important for all jurisdictions in the county to collaborate on tackling youth violence as crime knows no boundaries.
Santa Cruz, he said, has seen its share of horrific crimes this year, including the murders of two police officers in the line of duty and a fatal rolling drive-by shooting on Mission Street by alleged gang members in August.
Lane pointed out that the number of high school freshman using alcohol was higher in Santa Cruz City Schools than other districts in the county.
"The crime numbers might be higher in Watsonville but the worst incidents have happened in Santa Cruz," Lane said. "There are no lines between the city and county, people move around. We're all in this together."
Much of Tuesday's discussion involved keeping kids in school and joining sports and other activities such as church groups.
Kids who drop out of school or have no structured activity after school are the ones most likely to get into trouble and join a gang, said Megan Joseph of the United Way.
The number of students who said they were doing "interesting activities" in school was lowest in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District at 75 percent compared with 89 percent in Scotts Valley Unified, the highest in the county.
Pajaro Valley Unified also the lowest number of kids who reported being part of a club or sports team at 64 percent. Again, Scotts Valley Unified had the highest with 86 percent, the report said.
"Our teens need adult role models, they need to feel connected at school," Joseph said. "We need activities to keep youth safe and supervised. School attendance is directly related to success."
Findings from the report:
Santa Cruz County has 65,000 people ages 10-24.
Teen poverty rate is 18 percent.
At least 25 percent of homeless population are youths.
Self-reported alcohol use is 40 percent among 11th-graders.
Only 59 percent of Pajaro Valley 11th graders say they feel 'very safe' or 'safe' at school.
Juvenile Hall bookings dropped 47 percent from 2002 and 2012.
One in 10 county youth report being a gang member in 2010-11.

SOURCE: Applied Survey Research

Register-Pajaronian 12/11/13:

Turning the curve on youth violence

WATSONVILLE — Youth violence was the central topic Tuesday at the Santa Cruz County Status on Youth Violence summit.
About 165 people, from judges, law and elected officials to youth counselors, parents and city workers, attended the one-day brainstorm.
The event, with a theme of “turning the curve on youth violence,” began with a presentation from the Youth Violence Prevention Taskforce. Next came a data presentation of mountains of statistics based largely on research from 2012 presented by Abbie Stevens, director of assessment and evaluation at Applied Survey Research.
Following a break attendees tossed ideas back and forth in group discussions about what they had learned and how they felt about the morning presentation.
“We hope to develop a well-balanced youth program to curb violence. Remember, we’re better together,” said Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano, who offered welcoming and closing remarks.

Data presented includes:

• There were 26,131 youth ages 10-17 and 39,379 young adults, ages 18-24 years old in Santa Cruz County in 2012. Forty-eight percent were identified as white, 40 percent Latino, 12 percent other. Nearly 60 percent of youth on probation were Latino, followed by 34 percent white and three percent black.
• The number of juvenile hall bookings have been decreasing steadily in the county. For example, in 2002 there were more than 1,000 bookings, which dropped to 562 in 2012.
• Gang members are responsible for the majority of serious violent acts committed by youth.
• There were a total of 81 reported gang-related cases for youths 12 to 17 years old and 178 young adult (ages 18-25) gang-related cases from January through June of 2012.
• One in 10 freshmen self-reported being a gang member in the county in 2010-11.

“We need to have a look at what is getting in the way of our youth being successful,” said Megan Joseph, director of community organizing, United Way of Santa Cruz County. “We want to make it easy for youth to be successful. We’re taking a deep dive into our community to have a look at what is causing problems for our youth.”
The next step, Joseph said, is to put together a strategic plan to find funding to implement the plan of moving from data to action.
“I feel the meeting today was very successful,” Joseph said. “A big part of the community was represented.”
Following the meeting, Stevens said, “It was well-received and people were excited about wanting to make change. The feeling I came away with from the people was ‘Let’s get together and let’s work together.’”
One youth, who went by the name Juan, told the gathering about his involvement in gangs which he mostly attributed to his parents working from sun up to sundown and the lack of guidance from elders. He unwound a tale of a life punctuated with frequent violence, stealing, drugs and eventually jail and probation. Juan said he ended up in a program headed up by Gina Castañeda in Watsonville that turned his life around to such a degree that he got back in school, got a high school diploma and is now enrolled in Cabrillo College. That admission garnered a hearty wave of applause.
“I am doing this because I want to get a good job,” Juan said.
Verenise Valentin, vice mayor and city clerk for the Watsonville Youth City Council and a junior at Kirby High, was another youth who was invited to the podium.
“Though not all of the data comes as good news,” she said, “this forum is one of the first steps in the right direction. We can’t fix the problems with youths unless we hear directly from them. Youths need to have a purpose. A lot of them don’t feel connected with their community.”
Some good news presented included:

• Alcohol use and alcohol and drug-related arrests are down.
• Juvenile arrests are down.
• Juvenile Hall bookings have been steadily decreasing.
• Most students reported having an adult outside of their home who cared about them.

United Way partnered with the Criminal Justice Council of Santa Cruz County, Probation and Applied Survey Research to pool and present the information in a 93-page report.

Santa Cruz County Youth Violence Report