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Panel Urges Emphasis on Youth Crime Prevention

October 06, 1994|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — The watchdog Little Hoover Commission has urged Gov. Pete Wilson and the Legislature to make crime prevention their top strategy in seeking to turn the tide of violent juvenile crime in California.

In a 158-page report issued Tuesday at the conclusion of a seven-month study, the bipartisan commission recommended the creation of an agency that would consolidate the state's juvenile crime-fighting programs and increase the coordination at the state and local levels.

"The state must establish a high-profile, powerful organization that can provide the leadership needed to put prevention at the top of the list of crime-fighting strategies," said commission Chairman Richard Terzian. The commission is charged with recommending ways to make government more efficient and economical.

The study said that juvenile crime rates appear to have flattened during the past few years but that they remain unacceptably high. Arrests for violent crimes continue to increase, driven by climbing assault and homicide rates.

The commission said local government funds for juvenile crime prevention have been "systematically undercut" for 20 years by a shift in emphasis to locking up young criminals in California Youth Authority facilities.

"Yet all research indicates the earlier an at-risk juvenile receives services, the more likely a successful outcome," Terzian said. "Prevention needs to be a top priority."

In a letter to Wilson and legislative leaders, Terzian said an emphasis on prevention that involves schools, religious organizations, the family and government is needed to stop violent juvenile crime.

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