Ventura County should attack its growing teen violence problem by establishing a master plan that addresses kids' needs for guidance and support at home, at school and in their neighborhoods, says a new report released Thursday.
The report--a product of a May brainstorming session by county juvenile authorities, civic leaders and teen-agers--urges schools, businesses, families and government agencies to work together to quell youth violence and its causes.
"We hope that it will provide the catalyst and the framework for each community in the county to develop their own action plan on how to deal with youth violence prevention and intervention," Larry Yee, one of the report's co-editors, said as he presented it to the county's Children and Family Commission.
"These kids--when they get to where you're sitting tonight--I think the world's going to be more complex and difficult to deal with," said Yee, director of the University of California Cooperative Extension's Ventura branch. "And the sooner we give them the skills to operate, the better."
The report is being distributed to city officials, law enforcement officers and social workers as a sort of blueprint for defusing youth violence before it starts.
It urges the county to attack the problem with various measures:
* Cities should define the needs of at-risk youths and develop programs to help them. They should encourage respect for cultural diversity and develop youth programs that address all of a child's needs.
* Schools, businesses and families should unite to create jobs and work training programs for kids. Incentives should be given to employers for hiring youths. Teen-age and adult mentors should be chosen to prepare kids for work and adult responsibility.
* Parents should be trained to keep their kids from getting involved in violence, through classes in parenting, communications, anger management and gang awareness. Those who have trouble controlling their children should be given help, but parents ultimately should be held accountable when their kids violate curfew.
* The news media should publicize youth violence prevention and intervention programs, and publish more positive stories about youths.
* Teen-agers should be given leadership roles, such as representation on city councils, school boards and other community panels.
* A countywide task force should be formed to educate the public and liquor merchants about teen-agers and alcohol. Entire families should be involved in alcohol treatment programs for kids who have drinking problems.
Some cities--such as Oxnard and Ventura--had already began working on master plans to combat youth violence before the May summit and Thursday's report.
"Our projected master plan deals with the whole child," said Oxnard Councilman Bedford Pinkard, echoing a popular concept among youth workers that considers children's education, family life, neighborhoods and other factors when weighing problems such as violence.
The youth violence report "is very compatible with our goals," Oxnard Police Cmdr. Jeff Young said.
A new Oxnard youth commission--made up of students, social service workers, police, recreation workers and other Oxnard residents--is set to begin sorting out details of a master plan for youth at its first meeting next week, Young said.
County Supervisor Frank Schillo praised the new report for giving Ventura County the opportunity to unify youth service agencies that often operate in a vacuum from each other.
"I think there's a sense of isolation sometimes," he said. "You think you're doing something unique, but when you connect up with other people, you can put together ideas synergistically."
But as for actually putting money and labor behind these principles, Schillo admitted that none of the communities or agencies have begun the real work yet. "That's going to be the big challenge," he said.