Monday, March 30, 2009


The Probation Department will place officers at three high schools and a middle school in hopes of stemming gang violence in the Valley. The program is already in place at 120 L.A. County schools.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske | LA Times


March 30, 2009 - In an effort to combat gangs and prevent teenagers from being arrested, Los Angeles County officials are stationing more juvenile probation officers at local public schools.

Probation Chief Robert Taylor and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky appeared Friday at the Boys & Girls Club of San Fernando Valley in Pacoima to announce that they were adding three high schools and a middle school in the area to probation's School-Based Supervision program.

"The younger we can get them, the easier it is to mold them and channel them in a positive direction," Yaroslavsky said.

Taylor noted that more than 3,300 youths are in detention at the county's 22 juvenile halls and camps.

"To reduce that, you have to get to them before they're in custody," Taylor said. "We know you can't just treat the youth -- you have to treat the family as a whole."

The schools added to the program are Birmingham Senior High in Van Nuys, John F. Kennedy High in Granada Hills, Panorama High in Panorama City and Charles Maclay Middle in Pacoima.

It will cost $579,000 to send a probation officer to each school and provide computer equipment and clerical support, according to Yaroslavsky spokesman Joel Bellman. Bellman said the money comes from a portion of a federal grant for juvenile justice.

School-Based Supervision has placed probation officers at 90 high schools and 30 middle schools countywide since 2000, said Paul Vinetz, a program director. The program serves 13- to 18-year-olds in and out of probation and has a budget for this fiscal year of $14.5 million.

"We're enhancing the presence in the Valley because of the increase in gangs around Pacoima," Vinetz said at Friday's meeting at the Boys & Girls Club. "Just this morning we saw some gang graffiti near here, crossing each other out. Our campuses are safe havens."

Although crime in the Valley has decreased in recent years, about 16 gangs still operate in the area and one of the best ways to combat them is by reaching youths before they become involved, said Los Angeles Police Capt. Joe Curreri. Community leaders praised the program.

"We endorse this approach," said the Rev. John Lassigne of Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Pacoima. "Any solution to gang violence has to address the family, the school and the home."

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