Gang violence seems to have ramped up in Lompoc in the last year. Since Jan. 1, four of the seven murders in Lompoc have been linked to local gang members; that’s a historic high.
By the looks of social media, people are wondering “what happened to our quiet little town”? The question is relevant, but how to start solving the problem is a more important question.
Noozhawk recently reported that Mayor Jenelle Osborne facilitated a discussion during a Make a Difference Community Meeting and hopes to develop a “grassroots organically grown initiative” by residents working on solutions they can implement themselves.
That’s a good start, but there are many other things that can and should be done by the community and parents to help stem the growing crisis.
I said in last week’s commentary, “The ‘broken window’ theory suggests that policing methods that target minor crimes such as vandalism, public drinking, and blight help to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes. But during the last budget debate, three councilmembers prevailed and eliminated the code enforcement position and then diluted the anonymous complaint process, thus more ‘broken windows’ can exist unabated.”
Reinforcing this point during the meeting, one man raised concern about the lack of code-enforcement officers. “When the city looks like crap, it’s going to attract crap,” he said.
Of course, he is right; if a community’s government doesn’t care about how the town looks, why should its residents? And, if they don’t care about enforcing local ordinances, then many would question if they care about enforcing other laws.
The Noozhawk report goes on saying that Chuck Madson spoke about a fledgling organization, Future For Lompoc Youth, supported by the Santa Barbara Foundation.
“What we did is we took pieces of different programs we found in California,” he said. “We put them all into one center — we don’t like to call it a program because youth aren’t going to go to a program.”
That’s the first tangible effort I have heard of in several years. Boys and girls clubs offer a safe place to play games, but this sounds like an effort to address an alternative to the gang life head on.
Are there other solutions? You bet there are, but it would take a concerted effort by the school district, Lompoc Police, local businesses, and most importantly the parents of potential gang members.
Local businesses could help by offering mentoring programs to teach kids the responsibilities associated with the work environment.
Most kids think that if they graduate, they don’t need to apply themselves to get a job and keep it. And many believe they should be in charge on the first day they are at work.
Life doesn’t work that way, and someone needs to tell them that early on so they know at least 45 years of hard work follows graduation from high school before retirement.
The school district is reported by Zillow.com to have an 89 percent graduation rate and according to Niche.com based on state test scores “28% of students are at least proficient in math and 45% in reading.”
This metric should send a strong message that the school district needs to up its game, and parents of those who fail to graduate or are not proficient in math or reading need to get more involved with their kids.
The Lompoc Police need the resources and support of the community and more importantly the City Council to get their part of the job done. Simply saying during a political campaign or during budget discussions that “I support public safety” isn’t enough.
Finding ways to provide adequate funding so the police chief can compete for candidates with surrounding police agencies would prove politicians weren’t just making noise.
Lastly, good citizenship begins at home. Parents need to set a good example and must know what their kids are up to, who they are hanging around with, and what their school workload is.
Monitor their social media posts to see if they are leaning toward the gang life; set a time when they must be in the house, and establish a list of chores to teach them how to be responsible citizens later in life. House rules are important, too.
The Future For Lompoc Youth effort is just the tip of the iceberg; your involvement with your kids is the key to a healthy community. Don’t count on the government to raise your family.
— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at email@example.com. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.