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Ventura County Urged to Boost Youth Programs

A grand jury report concludes that local authorities should do more to discourage delinquency.

May 24, 2003|Jenifer Ragland | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County authorities are not doing enough to deter young people from delinquent behavior and incarceration, a new grand jury report concludes.

The report, released Friday, urges the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and the Ventura County Probation Agency to work together to establish more programs for troubled young people. Such programs should be aimed at steering them from drug and alcohol use and crime and toward academic and social success, the report said.

However, probation officials said the county already is running more programs for at-risk youth and spending more money on youth crime prevention than ever before.

"It appears the grand jury's report overlooks a lot of the really important and successful efforts we're making in this county toward dealing with at-risk youth and delinquent youth early on in the process," said county Probation Agency chief Cal Remington.

Those efforts include programs designed for repeat offenders, teenagers who are involved in hate crimes and young female offenders, Remington said. Funded with $2.4 million in state grants, the programs, in their third year, are being professionally evaluated, Remington said. But anecdotally, he said, "they've already proven to be effective."

However, the grand jury report suggests cutting back on those programs in order to establish different programs modeled after the Grizzly Youth Academy in San Luis Obispo, Tri-County Boot Camp in Santa Barbara and Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives in Los Angeles County.

"Lack of a program like Grizzly Academy detracts from Ventura County's ability to treat our youth," the report said.

The academy, set on a National Guard base, attempts to help teenagers in danger of dropping out of high school catch up on schoolwork and find direction.

Remington noted that many Ventura County teenagers attend Grizzly Youth Academy. And while the county is canceling its contract with the Santa Barbara boot camp, he said a similar program will be offered at the new Juvenile Justice Center opening in El Rio in September. As for Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives, Remington said officials investigated the program a few years ago but ruled it out.

"We're not able to adopt every program someone thinks may be effective," he said. "We're trying to gear our services in such a way that we get the biggest bang for the buck."

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