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City Reports On Steps To End Gang Violence:

The City of Santa Monica recently released a “Progress Report to the Community,” detailing the steps taken thus far by City “action partners” to reduce gang and youth violence in Santa Monica.

The report focused on strategies that were developed at two gang violence workshops held in February and April. The strategy goals are to “promote a sense of belonging, respect and identity, reflect cultural/ethnic sensitivity and competence, involve individuals and institutions communitywide, and be strengthened through improved resource coordination and interagency communication.” The workshops were precipitated by a gang-related shooting near Edison Elementary School in the fall of 2004.

Four “action strategies” were developed under the heading “Bring It Home,” which covers family services, resources and education. The City of Santa Monica is the lead action partner in this area.

To date, it has evaluated school-based mental health services, City staff members are being trained to “better link and refer families to community services,” and the “City’s youth financial assistance program is being refined to ensure the lowest income families are reached.”

To “create community-welcoming environment and collaborative programming at Virginia Avenue Park,” lead action partners, the City, The Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) and the Friends of Sunset Park have coordinated a community celebration for the park’s opening and other activities to encourage its use.

PNA, the L.A. County Probation Department, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) and Santa Monica College (SMC) have worked “on facilitating the successful re-entry of incarcerated youth and expelled youth back into the community and schools [by] organizing training and facilitating contacts regarding youth supervision, release and re-entry programs,”

The School District has opened a community day school for at-risk students and the SMC Pico Partnership is meeting with appropriate SMMUSD school officials to develops means to help at-risk students to prepare for college. Finally, PNA “reached out to families of incarcerated youth with information about the community day school” at an October 8 neighborhood block party.

To “encourage events in schools, churches, synagogues and neighborhoods to provide cross-cultural social experiences, share information and resources, offer training and capacity-building experiences for youth, youth workers and community leaders” the lead action partners, Human Relations Council-Santa Monica Bay, Santa Bay Interfaith Council, SMMUSD and neighborhood organizations have hosted several meetings and formed several groups.

In the “Make It Work” area, which includes jobs, training and mentoring, four action strategies were developed. To “involve 100 at-risk youth in mentor programs” the lead action partner, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, has a commitment from Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Los Angeles and SMMUSD to provide services at Virginia Avenue Park.

The Chamber and the City are working together to “target at-risk youth for potential employment.” To that end, a job fair was held in conjunction with JVS WorkSource. Additional job fairs, led by WorkSource, are being considered.

The California Employment Development Department (EDD), with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (AFL-CIO) SMCTC, SMMUSD, SMC and the City are working together to “provide job preparation and skill development for local at-risk youth.” SBCTC made a presentation at the Pico Youth and Family Center in June and the City increased the trade intern positions from six to eight for the 2005-06 fiscal year. In addition, EDD has met with the City to “discuss options to support expanded youth employment services in Santa Monica and SMMUSD has selected 30 students from John Adams Middle School to be part of the Valued Youth at Work Program. They will tutor students from the Will Rodgers Learning Community, will also improve upon their own skills and learn some practical skills as well. Finally SMC’s Pico Partnership is offering John Adams Middle School students the “opportunity for coursework on the college campus and exploration of career options.”

The only action plan that has not received any attention is “developing a regional plan for job-related youth programs, with plan implementation to be overseen by a coordinating council.”

The final action area, “Keep It Safe,” covers public safety, community relations and neighborhood beautification. In order to “expand and publicize mechanisms for dialogue between the community and the police, using model community liaison and public information programs to increase access to the police department and inform residents” the City has partnered with the neighborhood associations, and has adopted the Neighborhood Centered Policing philosophy.” In addition, the Santa Monica Police Department SMPD Animal Shelter “is working with the K-9 Connection that pairs at-risk youth from the John Adams Middle School with shelter dogs, and the SMPD’s sworn personnel have received cultural diversity training and the department is hiring a more ethnically diverse workforce.

“To maintain a safe and good-looking community, particularly the Pico neighborhood, conduct a neighborhood assessment, provide safe walking paths, involve businesses in beautification projects and establish a volunteer community clean-up corps the City has again partnered with PNA. Thus far, the City has added a question about perceptions of neighborhood appearance to the annual resident satisfaction survey and has continued to work with the School District on effective options for better security for Edison Elementary School.Finally, there has been some graffiti clean-up, additional budgeting for Pico neighborhood streetlighting improvements and work on the 20th and Cloverfield improvements.

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