Our goal for this committee is to develop a tool-kit of ideas at the local and state levels that will help communities dealing with youth violence, said Caballero. Im pleased to report that we are well on our way to achieving that goal.
The committee held five hearings during 2007. Hearings in Los Angeles, Salinas and Oakland focused on local programs, and a Sacramento hearing focused on issues relating to state programs and state support for local communities. An additional joint hearing in Sacramento held in conjunction with the Select Committee on Foster Care focused on deficiencies in the state and county dependency system currently serving foster youth who become involved with the juvenile justice system.
A lack of coordination among local programs, and lack of consistent funding, were two key issues identified in the committees update. The committee update also noted a need for accountability and uniform metrics to measure outcomes at the local level.
Communities need better tools to measure and validate the effectiveness of local programs in a uniform, apples to apples manner, said Caballero. All too often, communities end up measuring what did not happen — for example, fewer shootings or arrests, or other indications of gang-related violence. But they need better ways to measure more positive outcomes, such as the numbers of young people who improved reading skills or got involved in career technical programs.
The committee noted similar challenges with state programs targeting youth violence prevention. The committee heard from a number of state agencies that have some type of program to assist local communities, but found little coordination among the agencies.
State agencies, like local agencies and community organizations, tend to operate with a silo mentality, commented Caballero. They focus on their own programs, but not about how to coordinate with their sister agencies.
As with local agencies, the update noted that a lack of metrics to measure local outcomes makes it difficult to target the scarce state dollars effectively. However, Caballero praised the governor for creating a new Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy, and his appointment of former U.S. Attorney Paul Seave to direct the Office.
Commenting on the committee update, Seave said: The select committees findings highlight the need for coordination and accountability at all levels of government if California is going to make a serious dent in gang and youth violence. My office looks forward to working with Assemblywoman Caballero to develop a tool kit that will help local government prioritize the expenditure of scarce resources to most effectively reduce youth violence.
The select committee will hold its next hearing on April 11 in San Francisco. At least two additional hearings will be held this year, in Fresno, and an as-yet to be determined location in Southern California. The 2008 hearings will focus primarily on strategies that intervene in the lives of at-risk youth, or to turn around the lives of young people who have become involved with gangs and youth violence.
A final committee report will be produced following the conclusion of the 2007-08 legislative session.