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Local News

Task Force on Youth Gangs Facing Funding Challenges

The South Coast Task Force on Youth Gangs will struggle with less grant funding this year while trying to better coordinate services to the area’s at-risk young people, according to its annual report.

The task force is a collaborative effort to eliminate gang activity by providing better opportunities for youth in Southern Santa Barbara County.

In 2012, agencies worked with a target population of 130 people who were being supervised by the county Probation Department with gang terms and conditions.

Saul Serrano has been coordinator since the previous leader, Gus Frias, left in June 2011. The strategy support team includes leaders from the Probation Department, Community Action Commission, the County Education Office, UCSB, and local school districts and municipalities.

For four years, the county has had grants to help fund the California Gang, Resistance and Intervention Program, but isn’t receiving any from now on. It will be a challenge to provide case management and other interventions without the money, which was $369,000 for 2011 and 2012, according to the task force’s annual report.

The organization wants to engage service providers and law enforcement agencies more, especially school resource officers and gang suppression teams that focus on gangs and young people.

Work by South Coast school districts — particularly the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the region’s largest — is also a focus of the task force’s efforts.

Santa Barbara district outreach coordinator Ismael Huerta worked with 125 youths last year, and the district launched a restorative justice pilot program for discipline at Santa Barbara Junior High last fall.

Task force members hope to expand the program to more schools for the 2013-14 year.

Marlin Sumpter, assistant superintendent of pupil services for SBUSD, said details are still being worked out, but the Board of Education will probably discuss expanding the program soon.

The organizations involved with the task force efforts also want more timely information and to provide more public awareness of the efforts in the coming year, according to the report.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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