“Coalition Building, Taking a Next Step in Public Safety”
Published: October 26, 2012
By Kathy Long
Supervisor, Third District
To get to the next floor it’s futile to stare blankly at the staircase-one must take the first step. As your Ventura County Supervisor, it has been a rewarding and energizing experience to Co-Chair the Oxnard Alliance for Community Strength (OACS), which was formed in 2007 through a public/private partnership with the City of Oxnard, County of Ventura and other community based organizations to develop a gang violence reduction model in Oxnard. In the City’s recent “Gang Reduction Program: 2010-2011 Two Year Report,” it indicated that violent gang crime is down in 2011 by 43% from 2009, even lower at 56% is the gang assaults involving guns, which is a reversal of a three year upward trend that began in 2006. OACS helped lay a foundation for gang prevention, intervention and suppression that is successful and serves as a model that is ripe for expansion to other areas in our county.
Gang violence is a significant public safety issue that afflicts virtually every city, suburb and rural area in the State of California, and has caused more than 16,000 homicides in the State over the past 30 years. In May, the Board of Supervisors approved securing grant funding to further the work of gang violence reduction into the City of Fillmore and the unincorporated areas of Rancho Sespe and Piru through the “California Gang Reduction, Intervention, and Prevention Initiative”, or CalGRIP. Within this area of the Santa Clara River Valley, three known and active gangs operate, representing 300 plus documented members and a membership that is on the rise. Built upon a similar foundation to OACS, the CalGRIP initiative established a comprehensive partnership between the City of Fillmore, Ventura County Sherriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office, County Probation, Fillmore Unified School District, City Impact, One Step A La Vez and other community based organizations within and adjacent to the City of Fillmore.
In FY 2011-12, $8.2 million in funding became available to cities through a competitive grant process for CalGRIP. Of the available funds, $250,000 was awarded to the CalGRIP program in Fillmore, Rancho Sespe and Piru. I recognize the difficult fiscal challenges facing local government and specifically the cities in the Santa Clara Valley. Public safety should remain a top priority. It is critical to the health of our communities and families to reduce gang related violence, reduce the number of weapons on the street and in the hands of gang members, reduce recidivism, and create future opportunities for at risk youth in the job market-not in gangs.
The goal of this collaboration in Fillmore, Rancho Sespe and Piru is to utilize a multi-jurisdictional approach to prevention, intervention and suppression efforts to target at-risk youth between the ages of 12 to 24 through community mobilization, youth outreach, public education, faith-based leaders and law enforcement participation. In a single step, we can expand this model beyond Fillmore to the entire Santa Clara River Valley. To accomplish this, we need the engagement of both cities as well as interested community based organizations and residents. We would welcome the City of Santa Paula to the table, joining with the City of Fillmore, County, and community partners to form a cohesive strategy to reduce gang violence and crime in the Santa Clara River Valley.
As Mark Twain stated: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Our Ventura County Sherriff’s Department continues to pursue more funding to take further steps in the expansion of the CalGRIP initiative. I would like to invite those willing to participate in the next step to join us, and engage in a successful public safety strategy of public/private partnerships that will be of benefit to all residents in the Santa Clara River Valley.