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Supervisors seek new look into youth programs

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Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 10:00 pm

San Joaquin County supervisors want the county administrator to take another look at funding a program that helps young kids before they get too involved in crime.

Supervisors on Tuesday voted to kill several law enforcement programs funded through community block grants after funding dried up for most programs.

And although the majority of programs deal only with Stockton residents, one program - Youth Accountability Board - affects kids throughout the county who get into trouble.

Of the seven law enforcement programs on the chopping block for government funding, three - Youth Gun/Gang Violence Prosecution, Kids' Alcohol and Drug Alternatives Program, and Crime Analysts - were saved through the community block grant.

While funding from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families saved Gang Violence Intervention services for adults for the next fiscal year, it did not save the probation department program. That means the program operated by the probation department will end in 2005-06. But Juvenile Drug Court was saved by county superior court money.

Firearms Investigator and the Youth Accountability Board, however, were not saved. The loss of the youth program upset supervisors.

"It's a win-win situation," Supervisor Steve Gutierrez said of the Youth Accountability Board.

While the program is funded through this fiscal year, it is expected to be without money next fiscal year and eliminated, County Administrator Manuel Lopez said.

Since the law enforcement block grant program started in 1996, the money has been used toward the reduction and prevention of juvenile crime in Stockton, a staff report said.

At the same time, money for the programs has been slowly cut to the point where this year money for the program was slashed by 51 percent or $301,000 less than last year's. Last year, the program's funds were cut by 17 percent.

And while the program benefits mostly Stockton residents, the county and city of Stockton are joint participants in the block grant.

The Youth Authority Board is run by the probation department and consisted of probation supervisor and office assistant. The two recruited personnel for the YAB panels, the staff report said.

But without money for the supervisor and assistant, the board will die, supervisors were told.

"It benefits the very young," said Patty Mazzilli, a deputy probation officer. In fact, some of the clients in the program are 8, 9 and 10 years old, she said.

The idea, Mazzilli said, is that if the offenders are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, they should be held accountable.

And the program is working, she told board members. Of the 250 teens diverted to the program, only about 10 re-offend, she said.

Those figures had Supervisor Victor Mow question why, if the intent was to prevent crime and recidivism, Stockton's Crime Analysts program was being funded.

While Stockton did try to find other funding for crime analysts, the analyst does help in preventing juvenile crime, Tony Rocha, Management Analyst 3, told board members. Stockton is expected to pay the larger share for the analyst.

The program helps kids who commit low-level offenses before they get into the system, Mazzilli said after the meeting.

The offenses could include theft from a relative, tagging to shop lifting, she said.

The idea, she said, is to divert the juvenile from the system by referring them to a neighborhood panel that might recommend anything from community service to letters of apology to restitution if there's money involved.

While Mazzilli said she's hopeful supervisors can find another source of funding, she's concerned for the new offenders.

"We'll probably put them on informal probation," she said. "The more work we put on the front end, the more successful we'll be with the kids."

Contact reporter Les Mahler at lmahler@sjnsnews.com.

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