SANTA ANA : Drunk Driving Seen Among Worst Ills

Drunk driving, alcohol-related domestic violence and illegal drug sales lead a list of what residents view as the city's most serious problems, a survey released by Project SABADO shows.

Project SABADO, a $150,000-a-year program funded by the Orange County Health Care Agency, performed the survey as part of an effort to alleviate health risks related to drugs and alcohol citywide, said Arlene Saralegui, project director.

SABADO, which stands for Santa Ana Broad-based Alcohol and Drug Organization, was created in March and is guided by a 10-member committee which includes residents, community activists, police and teachers, Saralegui said.

At an informal meeting Monday, Saralegui presented the results of the survey, which showed that 90% of respondents consider driving under the influence of alcohol a serious or very serious problem locally. Eighty-six percent of the people included alcohol-related domestic violence in the same categories.

The survey also showed that 80% believe that gang violence in their neighborhoods is a serious or very serious problem, and that 70% are similarly concerned about drug sales near their homes. Alcohol consumption in public parks was viewed as a major problem by 83% of those surveyed.

The survey was conducted on Sept. 17-19 at the Las Fiestas Patrias, where about 400 people filled out questionnaires concerning drugs, alcohol, tobacco and gangs. Saralegui said the large number of people concerned with drunk driving reflects the media's success in spreading the message that drinking and driving affects everyone.

Saralegui said SABADO will continue researching problems in neighborhoods citywide until mid-January, then identify ways to combat them.

"Our goal is to mobilize the communities to get them in control of their neighborhoods," she said.

During the meeting, a panel of seven SABADO committee members discussed the survey findings before a small group of residents.

"One of our biggest problems with intoxication is that people get a little loose and want to celebrate, so they get their guns out, or they'll start fights," said Police Sgt. Ed Andrade.

He added that alcohol often turns small problems into big ones, "and that's what we're trying to stop."

George Cou, a representative of State Sen. Rob Hurtt, emphasized that residents must take responsibility for helping improve the city.

"People need to make sure that their elected officials know how they feel" so they can respond accordingly, he said.

Later, several members of the audience said they agreed with the survey results and called upon the community to help. One man said that given the scope of the problems facing the community, police cannot be expected to solve them without help.

Norm Campbell, a music teacher for the Santa Ana Unified School District, said that SABADO's goal is to enlist residents, community groups, businesses and city departments to solve the problems. "We need everyone's help," he said.

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