Cities and police team up in effort to prevent crimes by juveniles CRIME: Panel reports some success, but officers say there is still a long way to go

North County News

Orange County Register
18 Apr 1993: b08.

Eileen Olmsted didn’t hear what she anticipated at a League of Women Voters forum on juvenile justice Saturday.

“I expected to see people saying we don’t have enough money,” said Olmsted, a gang counselor who lives in Fullerton. “I was pleased with how much is being done.”

She got some good news instead.

Partnerships formed between police departments and schools signal a shifting of emphasis from punishment to prevention, North Orange County League of Women Voters members were told.

For Placentia police, that change in philosophy came in 1990 when Chief Manuel Ortega joined the department, Lt. Russ Rice said.

“You get pretty good at putting out the fires,” Rice said, referring to about 350 assault calls the department handled that year. “What we weren’t doing was preventing those fires.”

Since Ortega’s arrival, the department has expanded its Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, program by establishing a commission on youth comprised of community members. A new program designed to channel youths’ energy into positive community involvement should be ready by fall, Rice said.

Rice believes the change is responsible for a 27 percent decrease in assaults last year.

Fullerton and La Habra are using a $1.35 million grant to establish stronger ties between police departments and schools. Drug- and alcohol-prevention programs are funded by the grant; so are on-campus police officers, who have arrested three students for possessing guns on campus since the program began in February.

But the forum couldn’t avoid the bad news – mainly about the growing number of gang members and costly graffiti vandals known as “taggers.”

In the first quarter of 1993, graffiti removal has cost Yorba Linda $85,000 and Brea $30,000, league member Pam Grady, said. The Fullerton Elementary School District spent $179,000 on graffiti removal last year, board President Marge Pogue said.

Approximately 22 La Habra gangs have about 350 active members, Capt. Terry Rammel said. There are about 400 members in Placentia’s three gangs, Rice said. Both said the number, size and mobility of gangs have increased exponentially over the years.

Copyright Orange County Register Apr 18, 1993