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Grand Jury report criticizes Santa Maria’s youth safety task force

The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury released a report commending Santa Maria City officials for tackling the issue of youth safety but has criticized those efforts saying they don’t go far enough and are doing little to serve at-risk youth and family.

The Grand Jury argues that the current task force on youth safety is confined to youth-serving agencies within Santa Maria city limits but should expand to include the entire Santa Maria Valley.

The report also found that the Santa Maria City Council is not working in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors “to provide sources of permanent funding for the programs included in the strategic plan.”

The report continues, “The Jury finds that the at-risk youth and their families that the Task Force aims to help have little role in developing the envisioned changes and services that would affect them.”

The 7-page report claims the Mayor and City Council of Santa Maria of not including representatives at the policy-making level of parents and at-risk youth who would be directly affected by the services of the Santa Maria Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Safety.

The Jury noted that the city’s major and City Council’s “exclusive control of the strategic plan’s design and implementation may cause costly delays.”

Among several other concerns and issues observed by the Grand Jury, several recommendations to remedy these issues are included in the report.

“The Jury concludes that a successful Santa Maria Youth Task Force should reach out to surrounding area communities and their agencies. This model program would then actualize Santa Barbara County’s original intention of having a task force serving all the youth of the North County,” states the report.

Read the full report here.

KCOY 12’s Sean Larsen checked in with a neighborhood that has seen its share of violence.

A young man was stabbed to death in a neighborhood near West McElhany Avenue and Railroad Avenue last September. We reached out to people living there to find out if things of gotten better or worse and to see what they recommend for the Mayors Task Force.

Jessica Valencia remembers the panic in her Santa Maria neighborhood, on a Saturday evening, in September of last year.

“We really didn’t know what was going on, we’re used to seeing a couple cops in the area..unfortunately it was happening more often than not,” Santa Maria resident Jessica Valencia said.

An 18-year-old man was stabbed to death on her West Mcelhany Avenue street.

“We just saw a bunch of commotion but you really don’t know until the next day how dangerous it was ans what went down,” Valencia said.

However, right now the city is in a peaceful stretch.

“Things just come and go, a bad apple, a fluke incident,” Valencia said.

Santa Maria hasn’t had a homicide since October of last year.

“It’s calmed down a little bit, it’s been pretty quiet lately,” Valencia said. “I definitely would recommend events at the park, a DJ, we used to have dances at the Boys and Girls Club, that used to keep us out of trouble, kids need more stuff to do, they’re bored with nothing to do.”

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