Friday, June 24, 2016
Crime reduction, voting, literacy programs praised by Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury
SANTA CRUZ >> A Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury report on Thursday praised six county, city and private groups for effective work to reduce crime, promote literacy and enable people to vote.
The grand jury’s 11th and final report for 2015 and 2016 was titled Public Program Successes. It recognized the Bob Lee Community Partnership for Accountability, Connection and Treatment for its role in reducing arrests and tickets 70 percent among 70 chronic offenders in downtown Santa Cruz.
The program launched as the Downtown Accountability Program in 2014. It has brought together Santa Cruz police, prosecutors, mental health and drug treatment providers and others to manage cases more efficiently.
“With such an impressive success rate, PACT should consider expanding to other areas impacted by nuisance crimes such as Beach Street, San Lorenzo Park, the Emeline neighborhood, Grant Street Park and the Harvey West area in the city of Santa Cruz and unincorporated areas in the county enforced by the Sheriff’s Office,” the grand jury wrote.
Another program the civil grand jury lauded was Birthday Books by Coco at Starlight Elementary School in Watsonville. The program was founded by friends and family of Coco Lazenby, who died in a car crash on Highway 1 in August 2015. Lazenby loved to read, so her supporters started to give books to students at Starlight on the birthday of each of its 680 students.
“For many of these children it is the first book they have owned,” according to the grand jury report.
Civil grand jurors said they would like to see the program expanded to other schools in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
Another program commended by the grand jury was the Santa Cruz County Elections Department’s role in ensuring eligible voters are registered and, delivering ballots and providing rides to voters who are unable to reach polling stations.
The grand jury also commended an abandoned vehicle removal program that has involved sheriff’s deputies, Santa Cruz police and city and county staff. More than 500 vehicles have been towed and more than 10,000 ticketed in the city of Santa Cruz from 2011 to 2015, according to the report.
The report also recognized an inmate welfare program at Santa Cruz County Jail where deputies and others provide vocational, educational and counseling services to County Jail inmates.
The last group that the grand jury commended was Santa Cruz’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team. It has united Santa Cruz police, city Code Enforcement, Parks and Recreation and Information Technology staff to tackle neighborhood problems such as drug dealing and prostitution in San Lorenzo Park.
Grand jury reports in 2015 and 2016 have tackled Capitola police complaint procedures, the death of Krista DeLuca in jail, jail inspections, transparency problems in Soquel Union Elementary School District, problems with the County Mental Health Advisory Board, county retirement costs, civil asset forfeiture, the county Domestic Violence Commission, Felton Fire and school safety and emergency plans.
The reports and responses are online at SantaCruzCounty.us.
The Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury commended six programs for their effective work.
Downtown Accountability Program: The program uses a unified approach with law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office and others to rehabilitate chronic offenders and help prevent crime and nuisances in downtown Santa Cruz.
Birthday Books by Coco: The program at Starlight Elementary School in Watsonville provides free books to students on their birthdays.
Neighborhood Safety Team: Santa Cruz police, city Code Enforcement, Parks and Recreation and Information Technology staff formed this group to tackle neighborhood problems such as drug dealing and prostitution in San Lorenzo Park.
Abandoned Vehicle Program: Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputies, Santa Cruz police and Santa Cruz County Public Works have removed abandoned vehicles through a joint effort.
Inmate Welfare Program: Deputies and others provide vocational, educational and counseling services to County Jail inmates.
Voter Outreach: The Santa Cruz County elections workers deliver ballots, provide rides to eligible voters and prevent people who are not eligible to vote from casting ballots.
June 23, 2016
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Stephen Baxter