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South Coast Youth Gang Task Force Reports Drop in Juveniles on Probation

Numbers have fallen from 306 in 2009 to 170 last year, according to report presented to the Santa Barbara City Council and school board

There’s been a significant drop in the number of juveniles on probation in southern Santa Barbara County in the past five years.

That's according to a report delivered Thursday afternoon by South Coast Youth Gang Task Force coordinator Saul Serrano to the Santa Barbara City Council and the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Trustees.

The task force’s target population is juveniles on probation with gang terms and conditions, and those numbers for southern Santa Barbara County have dropped from 306 in 2009 to 170 last year, Serrano said.

The decline comes from fewer males on probation, but the number of females has been constant at about 60 for several years, he said.

The Santa Barbara district hired an outreach worker specifically for females, and the county Probation Department has been assigning young females to the same case worker. 

The district’s restorative-justice pilot program at Santa Barbara Junior High has resulted in a 30 percent drop in suspensions compared with a five-year average, Superintendent Dave Cash said.

The district hopes to expand the program to other junior highs and high schools next year.

The group also discussed the junior high’s after-school sports program, which is funded by Goleta, Santa Barbara and the district.

There were five-week seasons of soccer, basketball, volleyball, flag football and cross-country that ran from November to this week, Principal Lito Garcia said, adding that students find pride in the games, and love competing with the other junior high schools.

Council members also asked about the new iPad pilot program. While 1,200 students at four schools are getting iPads this month, about 30 percent of them don’t have access to the Internet at home, Cash said.

At the meeting, several people suggested putting together a list of free hotspots for students and families who don’t have access to the Internet after school hours. Many government and school buildings have free wireless but aren’t open very late, council members noted.

For now, teachers are prohibited from assigning Internet-dependent homework, Cash noted.

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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